Pettibone perfecting another fastball

Jonathan Pettibone
Jonathan Pettibone
Posted: June 04, 2012

READING, Pa. - The Phillies introduced Jonathan Pettibone to the two-seam fastball late last season and he fell in love.

"I wanted to pick up that fourth pitch, and the two-seamer gave me a pitch that I could throw in to righties and away from lefties," Pettibone said last week before a double-A Reading game. "I wanted more run than my straight four-seam fastball was giving me."

Pettibone, 21, had always excelled at throwing strikes during his climb through the Phillies' farm system, but a two-seam fastball - the pitch that has helped make Vance Worley a success at the big-league level - is not nearly as easy to control as the four-seam fastball.

"When you can run it up there 93 or 94, he doesn't need to throw that two-seamer all the time," Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. "But I think it was a new toy, and like any kid with a new toy, he abused it."

Pettibone's addiction to his new pitch combined with a more patient approach from hitters at the double-A level made for a combustible combination for the righthander during the first month of the season. He was 1-3 with a 4.33 ERA during five starts and walked an uncharacteristic 11 batters in 27 innings.

"The hitters give you more of an at-bat and a battle here," Pettibone said. "They won't swing until they get their pitch, which can be frustrating, and it was, especially early on. For me, the adjustment was to continue pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of the hitters in order to make them hit my pitch. That's helped me out lately."

Despite a rough start Thursday, Pettibone had a much better May (3-2, 3.63 ERA) than April, and part of the reason was that he went back to throwing more four-seam fastballs.

That does not mean he is giving up on the two-seamer or that the Phillies want him to forget about the pitch.

"I think it's a good pitch, and when I control it is a really good pitch," he said. "I'm going to continue to work on it in the bullpen, and when I have an opportunity to throw it in a game I will."

Wathan has been with Pettibone the last two seasons and is impressed by his even-tempered demeanor.

"I have to remind myself all the time that he is 21 years old," Wathan said. "He goes out there and the way he handles himself on the mound, the way he works, you'd think he was 28 or 29 years old. He's just a guy who really pitches with a lot of maturity. He's just always in control."

Pettibone's aplomb may stem from the fact that his father, Jay, spent five seasons in professional baseball, including a four-game stint as a starting pitcher with Minnesota in 1983.

"I still talk to him after starts and in between starts," Jonathan Pettibone said. "He's always positive. Even when I do struggle, he finds the positive. He always reminds me to keep it low and change speeds."

Gillies has concussion

Reading's Tyson Gillies was hitting .325 with three triples in his last 10 games when he suffered a concussion in a collision with centerfielder Jiwan James on May 26 at Harrisburg. Gillies still leads the Eastern League with six triples and is hitting .280 overall.

"He's been great," Wathan said. "The last week to 10 days, he's been outstanding. He's made the adjustments he needed to make. I think he was feeling confident the way he was swinging the bat, and when you get that confidence you can just roll, and he's rolling. It's a shame this slowed him down a little."

Colvin to bullpen

Righthander Brody Colvin's struggles at single-A Clearwater last season continued into this season and, after nine starts, the Phillies have moved him into a relief role.

Colvin, 21, was 2-4 with a 5.64 ERA this season, which was worse than his 3-8 mark and 4.71 ERA a year ago. He has allowed one run on six hits in two relief appearances covering four innings.

Closing time

Wathan asked Justin Friend early last season at Clearwater if he had ever closed. Friend, picked up in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft in December 2010, said he had a few times and he'd love to again.

"I said, 'That's my guy,' " Wathan said.

Friend did the job so well last year at Clearwater that he was promoted to Reading, and this year at Reading the 25-year-old righthander has 11 saves and a 0.50 ERA in 17 games.

"He doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but he has a really good sinker and he's not scared to pitch," Wathan said. "He loves to pitch in tight games."

Extra bases

Austin Hyatt has been demoted to Reading after going 2-6 with a 5.47 ERA at triple-A Lehigh Valley. . . . Clearwater's Zach Collier returned last week from a 50-game suspension for a positive drug test. . . . Catcher Cameron Rupp and pitchers Jesse Biddle, Adam Morgan, and Austin Wright were named to the Florida State League all-star team. Somehow third baseman Cody Asche, the league's No. 2 hitter with a .354 average, was not named an All-Star. Reliever Tyler Knigge - 0.90 ERA in 30 innings - was also bypassed.

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