Once proclaimed as the collegiate version of Greg Maddux while pitching for Missouri State University, Nick Petree has decided to retire at 25 years of age. The St. Louis Cardinals ninth-round draft pick in 2013 tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last season.
“It was a decision that I made after talking to my family, talking about what was best for me,” Petree told the Springfield News-Leader on Monday. “It was a tough decision. I didn’t want to give up on playing, but I also knew it was going to be a year or more before I was able to get back on the mound and compete.”
With the possibility of a second Tommy John surgery on the horizon, Petree's decision was to take the retirement route. He told the Springfield News-Leader that his age played a factor in his decision with the Cardinals organization having been supportive throughout the process.
With his advanced pitchability, Petree moved swiftly through the Cardinals minor league pipeline after his signing in 2013. He compiled a career 17-14 record with a 2.94 ERA across 56 games (52 starts) covering 306 1/3 innings and tallied an impressive 227-to-82 cumulative strikeout to walk ratio.
In 2015, Petree began the year at Springfield and was given the opening day nod. In his first trial of the Texas League, he struggled to command the strike zone and was knocked around to the tune of a 4.64 ERA in 54 1/3 innings until a late-May demotion. The right-hander finished 2015 with an improved 3.48 mark in High-A Palm Beach and looked to return to the Double-A Cardinals rotation in 2016 had he not hung up his spikes.
“With Nick, he needed to command his fastball better,” Springfield pitching coach Jason Simontacchi told me a month after his demotion. “(It) looked like he (Petree) got away from it. The last couple of years, he threw the fastball probably 70 percent of the time. This year, I think he is at 46 percent, and he just needed to go down there (Palm Beach) and fine-tune some things.
“It’s not that the stuff wasn’t there, it was just the fact he was getting behind and he was being too fine, and so he had to come over the middle of the plate. Guys were hitting him and balls were elevated. He just needs better command of the strike zone," Simontacchi said.
Unfortunately, after an all-too-brief three-year professional stint, Petree will no longer continue his baseball career. Over time, he may best be remembered for his dominant collegiate career after three All-American campaigns for the Bears, the only player to accomplish that feat in program history.
As Petree moves on from his playing career, The News-Leader reports he will spend this spring as a voluntary coach at Missouri State as he works towards a business degree. Petree is set to graduate in December and will then become a pitching coach at State Fair Community College in Sedalia, Missouri.
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