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Phils option Pivetta, move Eickhoff to rotation

Klentak: 'Every game matters right now'
@ToddZolecki
April 17, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Pivetta slammed his belongings into a box and travel bag Wednesday morning at Citizens Bank Park. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler pulled up a seat next to him and chatted with him one final time. Then, Pivetta left. The Phillies have optioned Pivetta to Triple-A Lehigh Valley following

PHILADELPHIA -- Nick Pivetta slammed his belongings into a box and travel bag Wednesday morning at Citizens Bank Park. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler pulled up a seat next to him and chatted with him one final time.

Then, Pivetta left.

The Phillies have optioned Pivetta to Triple-A Lehigh Valley following Tuesday’s start against the Mets. Pivetta is 2-1 with an 8.35 ERA through four starts. He declined comment on his way out, but anybody that can read body language could see that he took the news hard.

Fellow right-hander Jerad Eickhoff will take Pivetta’s place in the rotation and pitch Sunday afternoon in Colorado. The Phillies selected infielder Phil Gosselin's contract from Lehigh Valley to replace Pivetta on the 25-man roster. They need an extra position player while shortstop Jean Segura recovers from a strained left hamstring. Segura said he could return to the lineup before the end of the upcoming seven-game road trip.

Tommy Hunter has been placed on the 60-day injured list to make room for Gosselin on the 40-man roster.

But Pivetta’s surprising departure was the big news. He entered the season as a trendy pick to be one of baseball’s breakout pitchers. The club believed it, too.

But the Phillies could not wait forever for Pivetta to perform well. They are no longer rebuilding. They are trying to win.

“Performance matters,” general manager Matt Klentak said. “In Nick’s case -- I believe his fastball, the depth on his breaking ball -- what he can do on the mound gives him a chance to be a front-of-the-rotation starter. But he needs to get them out, too. And I think he will. I don’t want it to sound like this is some punitive measure. We really believe that Nick needs to go down and regain his confidence, get into his groove and come back up here pitching like the guy we know he can be. But every game matters right now.

“The competitiveness of the division, this team, our playoff aspirations contribute to a shorter leash than potentially in prior years.”

Klentak said he used a few pitchers as examples in the morning meeting with Pivetta: Roy Halladay, Vìctor Arano and Héctor Neris. Halladay posted a 10.64 ERA in 67 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays in Toronto in 2000. It remains the highest single-season ERA in baseball history (minimum 50 innings). Halladay continued to pitch poorly in the spring of 2001. Toronto decided then to demote Halladay to Class A Dunedin. Halladay worked on the mental side of his game as well as reconstructed his delivery.

He will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in July.

Arano had a 2.73 ERA in 60 appearances last season, but he allowed 17 hits and 20 runs in just four innings this spring. The Phillies optioned him to Lehigh Valley. He pitched well there earlier this month before rejoining the team Friday in Miami. He has struck out seven and walked one in four scoreless innings since his return.

Philadelphia optioned Neris to Triple-A last summer. He struck out 35 batters and walked five in 17 2/3 innings upon his return.

Klentak could have mentioned former Phillies right-hander Brett Myers, too. He had a 5.84 ERA through 17 starts in 2008 before the Phillies demoted him to Triple-A. Myers could have refused the assignment because he had five-plus years of service time in the big leagues. Instead, he returned three weeks later and went 7-4 with a 3.06 ERA in his final 13 starts before helping the Phillies win the World Series.

“Nick has all the ingredients to be a top-of-the-line Major League starter,” Klentak said. “Everyone in this organization still believes that he’s going to do it. And frankly we believe he’s going to do it this year. But right now after four tough starts we need to get him into an environment where he can get his confidence back.”

But Eickhoff deserved his shot, too. He allowed three hits and struck out six in four scoreless innings in relief of Pivetta on Tuesday. Eickhoff is a bulldog. He loves to challenge hitters and fill the strike zone with his fastball, curveball and slider.

“Jerad has had a pretty long road back, a bunch of injuries and setbacks,” Klentak said. “There’s no harder worker. Nobody that’s been a better teammate. To see what he’s done in Spring Training, the early parts of April and then last night is phenomenal. We think Jerad has earned the chance to get back in the rotation.”

Gosselin thrilled to play for hometown team

Gosselin grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, attending Malvern Prep High School. He sat in the upper deck when the Phillies played the Yankees in the 2009 World Series.

He knew he had a shot to play for his hometown team this season, when he signed a Minor League contract with the Phillies. But Gosselin also knows nothing is guaranteed after spending parts of six seasons in the big leagues with the Braves, D-backs, Pirates, Rangers and Reds.

“It’s crazy,” Gosselin said. “I never really thought I’d get here growing up to be honest with you. It probably exceeded that first call-up I got, just because of all the emotions and growing up and coming to games here. I’m not a very emotional guy, but this one more so than even that first one with Atlanta. [Texts] are still coming in. I haven’t gotten a chance to respond yet. Tons of people are reaching out, which is really cool.”

Gosselin is wearing No. 9 with the Phillies. He wore No. 17 growing up because he loved Scott Rolen.

“Then I got older, Chase Utley,” Gosselin said. “And I got to play against him, which is pretty crazy. I’ve been lucky."

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .