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April 25, 2017

As Aaron Nola progresses, Nick Pivetta excited for opportunity with Phillies

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022617.Phils.Pivetta Ryan Lawrence/PhillyVoice

Nick Pivetta arrived in the Phillies clubhouse on Tuesday. He is tentatively scheduled to start in place of Aaron Nola on Wednesday night for his MLB debut.

Aaron Nola, like his general manager who announced the roster move a day earlier, doesn’t believe he’ll be out of the Phillies rotation for very long.

Nola was at his locker stall in the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park with the rest of his teammates on Tuesday afternoon and plans on traveling with the team in the coming week to Los Angeles and Chicago, too, despite being placed on the 10-day disabled list with a back strain on Monday. Nola, who missed the final two months of the 2016 season with a right elbow injury, is eligible to come off the disabled list as soon as Monday, May 1.

“I don’t think it’s anything big,” Nola said. “I feel like I definitely could have started (Wednesday against the Marlins), but I guess I don't want it lead to an arm thing again. I definitely don't want that to happen. I definitely feel better today.”

“It’s not his arm, so that’s the good news,” manager Pete Mackanin said. “Hopefully, he’ll miss just one start. It’s just to be cautious.”

Originally, right-hander Nick Pivetta was scheduled to start in Nola’s place on Wednesday. But following Tuesday's postponement (due to rain) the rising prospect's MLB debut isn't likely to come until this weekend at Dodger Stadium. Vince Velasquez, Tuesday night's scheduled starter, will now start Wednesday, followed by Jeremy Hellickson on Thursday.

Even if Pivetta heads back to Allentown for the next day or two (he can't stick around if he's not officially added to the roster) he was pretty excited with the prospect of pitching on a major league mound for the first time within the next week.

“It feels good,” said Pivetta, who was issued jersey No.43 and had a corner locker stall in the front of the clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon. “I achieved my goal of getting here eventually. I am happy to be here, happy to be part of this team and help them win. I want to get my feet on solid ground right now and just take it one step at a time.”

Pivetta, acquired in the July 2015 trade that sent Jonathan Papelbon to the Washington Nationals, has easily been the best starter in a talented rotation at Triple-A Lehigh Valley two weeks into the season. He was 3-0 with 24 strikeouts and two walks in 19 innings; Pivetta ranks third in the International League with a 0.95 ERA and second with a 0.737 WHIP.

The 24-year-old saw his 2017 season get off to a good start in a brief but impressive stay in big league camp with the Phillies before joining Team Canada for the World Baseball Classic.

“I’ve got better as I’ve progressed as a pitcher,” said Pivetta, a 4th-round pick by Washington in the 2013 MLB draft. “(This year it’s been) just getting ahead with my fastball. First pitch strikes are big. Even if I get into that 0-1 count or that 1-1 count, getting back to that 1-2 count is big. So being able to even up those counts have been really big for me as well, and being able to finish off my off-speed later in the counts, too.”

Pivetta should have a place in the rotation until Nola is feeling healthy enough to jump back into the Phillies’ starting five. Nola said he felt a little tight last week in New York and figured it was best to be cautious going forward.

“I have had back stiffness before, hamstring tightness,” he said. “I mean, that's just something I would get when you would throw every day and play every day. But just the motions of turning and planting would get it. But I don't think it's anything serious at all.”

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