Pivetta surrenders two runs in loss; Saturday notes and lineup

Nick Pivetta surrendered two runs in his spring debut for the Phillies
Danny Ortiz homered in the eighth inning Friday, but the Blue Jays scored two runs off Nick Pivetta early in the contest and held on to win the Grapefruit League opener for both teams, 2-1.

Nick Pivetta pitched two innings, struck out three and walked one. He surrendered a leadoff homer to Curtis Granderson but settled down a bit after. He kept his fastball up in the zone, which was a point of emphasis for him coming into the spring.

"We identified some pitch characteristics," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said. "Nick's fastball plays beautifully at various spots in the zone. One of them is up. But if you think about the swing planes we're teaching now, trying to get the ball in the air, getting above those bats is not a terrible thing. Sometimes one of the things that keeps that ball above the bat is a ball that spins really fast. A high spin rate stays up in the zone like that."

Pivetta's spin rate on his fastball and curve significantly improved over the final two months last season and a higher spin rate correlates with a lower batting average against.

If Pivetta continues to keep a high rate of spin on the ball, plus elevate his fastball so it's more difficult for a hitter to get beneath it, the Phillies believe he can be successful.

Pivetta, 25, went 8-10 with a 6.02 ERA in 26 starts last season.

"It's nice to look back at that and see where I finished and move forward," Pivetta said of an encouraging second half last season. "I think my curveball got a lot better. I got more consistent with my slider. But I think out of all of them, I think my fastball just got more consistent in the zone. I was able to put guys away with more quality pitches."

Strong Showing
Mark Leiter Jr. struck out a pair and allowed two hits in two scoreless innings. The 26-year-old looked is poised to make the opening day roster barring an unforeseen implosion. He'll likely fill in as a long-relief, spot-starter type.

Small Sample, Don't Matter
Dylan Cozens struck out twice, meaning he's now gone down on strikes in each of his four spring appearances. He's a longshot to make the roster out of camp, but given the depth the Phillies have in the outfield this is a chance to showcase he belongs in the discussion. Thus far, it hasn't gone as planned.

Quote Me
Francisco Rodriguez allowed one hit, one walk and struck out one in one scoreless inning. He threw 22 pitches (11 strikes) with a fastball that hovered in the upper-80s.

The 36-year-old has 437 career saves in 948 career appearances and is in camp as a non-roster invitee. A six-time All-Star, he isn't ready to call it a career.

"I love the game," he said. "I don't think I have to prove anything. I don't think I went to Walmart and bought 900 appearances and 437 saves. I did that with a lot of pride and hard work. This is the only thing I know how to do, play baseball. God gave me the opportunity to throw a baseball, and I'm going to continue to do it."

Up Next
Right-hander Zach Eflin starts against the Orioles on Saturday afternoon at Spectrum Field. At this point, Eflin is not guaranteed a slot in the starting rotation. The 23-year-old right-finished with a disappointing 6.16 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, and 35/12 K/BB ratio over 11 starts.

Saturday's Starting Lineup
1. Carlos Santana 1B
2. Rhys Hoskins LF
3. Jorge Alfaro C
4. AaronAltherr RF
5. Cesar Hernandez 2B
6. J.P. Crawford 3B
7. Tommy Joseph DH
8. Ryan Flaherty SS
9. Roman Quinn CF
Follow Patrick on Twitter: @PGordonPBR

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