Savery May Not Last Long In Clearwater

You have to wonder if Joe Savery's first four seasons in the pros may have been a waste of time and effort. While the Phillies thought Savery showed promise as a pitcher, it's turning out that putting a bat in his hand was a much better idea.

There was some debate when the Phillies drafted Joe Savery over whether he should be groomed as a pitcher or as a first baseman. The Phillies decided that he belonged on the mound and there were times when the decision seemed to be the right move. In his first pro season, Savery posted a 2.73 ERA in seven starts at Williamsport and followed that up with a 4.13 ERA in 27 games (24 starts) in his second season after jumping over Lakewood and heading straight to High-A Clearwater.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of disappointing times for Savery as well. It was easy to get excited by Savery's 16-6, 4.40 season in 2009, split between Reading and Lehigh Valley. But when you looked deeper, there was reason for concern; 77 walks in 151 1/3 innings, a WHIP of over 1.5, 13 home runs allowed and more than a hit an inning allowed. In 2010, things turned sour for Savery and his record fell to 1-12 with a 4.66 ERA.

"I saw that some of the other pitchers were passing me by and after I was moved to the bullpen I felt that maybe the page was being turned on me a little bit. I was only 24 and I felt that if pitching was not going to work out that maybe I could still swing a little bit. I wasn't ready to go home," explained Savery.

By the middle of the 2010 season, the Phillies were toying with the idea of returning Savery to his roots as a first baseman. In fact, he showed up in the Lehigh Valley lineup as both a pinch-hitter and designated hitter and had success as both.

After a discussion with assistant GM Chuck LaMar, Savery was told that if he wanted to pursue hitting, that was okay with the Phillies, but there wouldn't be any return to pitching if it didn't work. Savery accepted the challenge and barely had a bat out of his hand all winter long. In camp, Savery stayed in the minor league camp and was taking his turns in the batter's box.

"The talks about a change came about around the All-Star Game last year and I started DHing once a week from August," Savery remembered. "This winter, I told the Phillies that I would like a chance to move to first and luckily they gave me a shot."

From his first at-bat of the season - a line single to left - Savery was off to a torrid start. Savery had multiple hits in each of his first five games this season before taking an 0-for-3 in game six. It all adds up to a .667 average (14-for-21) with five runs scored, one home run and two RBI.

In somewhat of a strange turn of events, perhaps the thing that sank Savery as a pitcher is helping him to be a solid hitter. "The good thing in pro ball is that the strike zone gets smaller as you move up and that allows you to be more selective," Savery said. "Knowing that guys have to throw strikes means you don't have to chase bad pitches. I've been on both sides of it and everything seems a little better for hitters."

Considering the pace that Savery is on, all he'll have to do is continue with a good pace and he'll be relocating to Double-A Reading before too long. Of course, the competition on the mound will become better as Savery is challenged by more polished pitchers and the competition for roster spots will also get tougher. Reading has prospect Matt Rizzotti at first and of course, there's Ryan Howard at the major league level. It's conceivable that Rizzotti - also off to a good start at Reading (.458/.500/.792) - could move up to the Triple-A level where he finished the 2010 season, opening a spot for Savery.

Savery is still just 25 and has a shot at making enough of an impact that he could carve out a nice major league career. It would be interesting if somehow, we could know where Savery would stand had he not spent those four seasons on the mound. For now though, he's just happy with where he's at and the challenge that lies ahead.

"I spent a lot of time worrying about where I would end up, and it drove me crazy. Now I try not to worry about it as much and I'm just happy to be playing every day," said Savery. "I'm grateful for the opportunities the Phillies have given me, both on the mound and in the field."

Joe Savery career pitching stats

Year Tm W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
2007 Williamsport 2 3 2.73 7 7 26.1 22 9 8 0 13 22 1.329
2008 Clearwater 9 10 4.13 27 24 150.1 171 84 69 10 60 122 1.537
2009 2 Teams 16 6 4.40 28 27 151.1 153 78 74 13 77 96 1.520
2009 Reading 12 4 4.41 21 20 112.1 111 55 55 13 53 77 1.460
2009 Lehigh Valley 4 2 4.38 7 7 39.0 42 23 19 0 24 19 1.692
2010 Lehigh Valley 1 12 4.66 28 19 127.1 154 78 66 13 51 67 1.610
4 Seasons 28 31 4.29 90 77 455.1 500 249 217 36 201 307 1.540
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2011.

Joe Savery minor league hitting stats

Year Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
2007 Williamsport 7 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2008 Clearwater 31 13 2 3 2 0 0 1 1 0 .231 .286 .385
2009 2 Teams 38 40 7 9 2 0 0 1 3 4 .225 .279 .275
2009 Reading 30 34 6 8 2 0 0 1 2 3 .235 .278 .294
2009 Lehigh Valley 8 6 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 .167 .286 .167
2010 Lehigh Valley 36 46 5 16 3 0 1 6 0 10 .348 .348 .478
2011 Clearwater 6 21 5 14 3 0 1 2 2 1 .667 .696 .952
5 Seasons 118 120 19 42 10 0 2 10 6 15 .350 .381 .483
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/13/2011.




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