There have been a few times over the past couple of seasons that Savery's mental toughness has been tested and he's taking advantage of those situations to become a better pitcher. One of the first things that he's learned is that slowing down the pace works well for him.
"I have slowed things down," said Savery. "I think when guys get on or in pressure situations, I can slow things down better and focus rather than just competing. Competing can get you a long way, but with pitching, there's a finesse side of things and you have to learn to mix and match."
Last season at this time, things were moving much too quickly for Savery. In fact, they were somewhat spiraling out of control. "Towards the end of the year, I just physically wasn't there," admitted Savery about his 2008 campaign. "I had thrown a lot coming off surgery with very little rest. I think, all things told, I had underestimated some things and maybe had a lot more to learn than I had imagined."
Some of the learning that Savery had to do was not to let his expectations get ahead of where he was at. He came into last season - which was really his first full season in the pros - expecting to make Double-A by the All-Star Break and when things got rough early in the season, Savery had to face reality. "I think I sort of set myself up for failure in that sense. The expectations were very high and I think that might have played into it, especially when May went so poorly," remembers Savery.
For 2009, Savery changed his expectations and has found success, again, by slowing things down. "The first thing is that I wanted to be healthy. I finished last year throwing 84 or 85 miles an hour, so I wanted to be healthy," said the 23 year old graduate of Rice.
"I just wanted to appreciate where I was. I told myself 'I'll be at Reading the whole year' I wanted to hopefully get better and then that third year, start at Triple-A and maybe some time late in the year, get a shot then," said Savery. "I really just tried to slow things down and just take it at what it is."
Savery has been healthy this season and his slow and easy approach has played out well enough to get him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley for the last month of the season. His promotion came at an odd time though, because he had put together three straight poor outings just before coming to Lehigh Valley after starting the year by going 12-1 for the R-Phils. Phillies minor league director Steve Noworyta thinks frustration might have played a role in Savery's slump.
"Anytime you're putting up numbers like that [12-1] and you see other players going to Triple-A, you're thinking about it," said Noworyta. "But he's handled it well and he's come here [Lehigh Valley] and pitched well so far and it's a great experience for him to be here at this point."
For his part, Savery thinks it's just part of that mental challenge that players have to get past to succeed. "I think this game is just a mental challenge, no matter what the case is. When you're 12-1 and you started the All-Star Game and everything, you have to fight against that sense of 'what do I do from here?', explained Savery. "You start putting pressure on yourself that you've got to be doing something more than what you're doing, and that becomes a challenge."
That's not to say that Savery isn't ready for some challenges, in fact, the opposite is true. "I think you always want that [the next challenge]," said Savery. "I think in this game, your rewards are very simple and out there; you get moved. You can have all the records and the numbers that you want, but the true reward is getting moved up."
For Savery to make it to the next level, his command is going to have to improve. In 145 innings this season, Savery has walked 67 hitters, while striking out 89. Savery's WHIP is at 1.6 this season between Reading and Lehigh Valley and those numbers won't be good enough to get him to the majors. The fact that the Phillies have a bunch of left-handers at the major league level also doesn't help Savery's chances and means that his numbers will need to be much better in order for him to stand out.
"I think you'd be lying if you said you weren't aware of everything that goes on up there, because you are," admitted Savery. "But what you learn very quickly in this game is how little control you have. These decisions are just not up to me. They could have left me at Double-A and would have had a reason to just because I had struggled those last few starts. These things just aren't up to you."
"I'm going to have to catch a break, that's the bottom line. Whether it's filling in for someone who's on the DL or a trade of some sort, it's gonna take a break and you can help yourself in those situations, but you can't try to force it, because you have no control."
Year Team W L ERA GS IP H R ER BB SO SO/BB 2007 Williamsport 2 3 2.73 7 26.1 22 9 8 13 22 1.69 2008 Clearwater 9 10 4.13 24 150.1 171 84 69 60 122 2.03 2009 Reading 12 4 4.41 20 112.1 111 55 55 53 77 1.45 2009 Lehigh Valley 2 1 5.16 4 22.2 26 15 13 14 12 0.86 CAREER TOTALS 25 18 4.19 55 311.2 330 163 145 140 233 1.66