Phillies' Joe Savery moves to IronPigs' bullpen

Pitcher Joe Savery , the Phillies' 2007 first-round draft pick, is now working from the bullpen at triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Pitcher Joe Savery , the Phillies' 2007 first-round draft pick, is now working from the bullpen at triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Posted: July 03, 2010

ALLENTOWN - Joe Savery has been told to take a step back, and now it's fair to wonder what the next steps will be for the Phillies' 2007 first-round draft pick.

With a 1-8 record and 5.21 ERA at triple-A Lehigh Valley, Savery was recently removed from the starting rotation and sent to the IronPigs' bullpen. Chuck LaMar, the Phillies' assistant general manager in charge of player development, said the organization hopes that Savery can regain some confidence and return to the rotation before the end of the season.

"I'm fine with it," Savery said before a Lehigh Valley game earlier this week. "I understand I haven't pitched very well. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself, so maybe going to the bullpen is a chance to stop and kind of start over."

The relief experiment started for the Phillies' 2007 first-round pick Thursday night and it went well. His pitching line, however, looked more like that of a starter than a reliever. In seven innings against Syracuse, Savery allowed just five hits and one run with seven strikeouts and no walks.

That would have qualified as his best start of the season if it had not come in relief of Alex Concepcion, a reliever who pitched just two innings in his first start of the year. Despite the length of his outing, Savery told the Allentown Morning Call that something was different about pitching in relief.

"Coming out of the 'pen, I felt like we went to everything right away and weren't trying to establish the fastball," Savery said. "We came out firing from the get-go with everything. Maybe that's just how I need to pitch."

Savery, 24, did something else he loves during his relief appearance: He got to hit, going 2 for 3 with a double.

"One of the hardest adjustments for me in pro ball has been playing one day and watching four, so this may be more of a chance to be more involved in the game," Savery said. "I'll get a chance to compete more often and that could help with everything."

At Rice University, Savery was never a spectator. When he wasn't pitching, he was playing first base and he led the Owls in hitting during his freshman and junior seasons. He finished his college career batting .356 with 56 doubles, 20 home runs and 169 RBIs.

"Like I said, I do miss that," Savery said. "I've never apologized for that. I always liked hitting every day. It is what I grew up doing my whole life. I never sat on the sidelines."

If the success Savery enjoyed Thursday doesn't continue, there could come a time when he tries to make it to the big leagues as a hitter. He knows he must first give everything he has to becoming a big-league pitcher.

"As much as I enjoy doing that, the Phillies have given me a great opportunity and I have to do my best to do what they drafted me to do," he said. "I feel like I'm doing that."

Truth be told, Savery has never lived up to the expectations of a first-round pick. Even last year when he went a combined 16-6 at double-A Reading and Lehigh Valley, Savery still had a 4.40 ERA and allowed 153 hits and walked 77 batters in 1511/3 innings.

By his own admission, this season has not even been the worst struggle of his professional career. He described his 2008 season with single-A Clearwater as a more difficult experience.

"The numbers may not say that, but I was in the Florida State League, and I just did not have a very good year," Savery said. "The numbers then were better than they are now, but even the way I dealt with things that year wasn't good. This is not a good place I'm in now, but I did put together six or seven good starts in the middle of the year."

And now he has one outstanding relief appearance he can build on.

Record in sight. Harold Garcia, a Venezuelan native who signed with the Phillies in 2004, had a 34-game hitting streak going into single-A Clearwater's game against Lakeland on Friday. He already has set a franchise record and needs to get to 37 games to break the Florida State League record.

"Of course I'm thinking about it," Garcia told MLB.com through a translator. "A lot of people are talking about it. I'm trying to not do too much."

Garcia, a 23-year-old second baseman, is hitting .339 with 12 doubles, three triples and two home runs. He has stolen 15 bases in 20 attempts.


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or bbrookover@phillynews.com.

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