Oct. 20, 2014
By Matthew Betts
It was a memorable year for two Canadian pitchers in the Washington Nationals system.
RHP Nick Pivetta (Victoria, BC) and RHP Andrew Cooper (Belle River, Ont.) combined to win 20 games and pitch 202 1/3 innings for the class-A Hagerstown Suns.
Pivetta, a former Victoria Eagle, has been named top Canadian pitcher in the minors by the Canadian Baseball Network. A well deserved recognition.
Former Tecumseh Thunder pitcher Cooper also made a name for himself this past season.
Pivetta and Cooper may not have known each other before becoming teammates in Hagerstown, but they are certainly gaining recognition within the Nationals the organization formerly known as the Montreal Expos.
The two just met this year and have learned a lot about each other, life in the minor leagues, and what it takes to get to where they want to go.
Both Pivetta, a New Mexico Junior College Thunderbirds standout and former Junior National Team pitcher and Cooper of Sierra College Wolverines took similar paths before arriving in Hagerstown. Both were assigned to the South Atlantic League after spring training. Cooper spent the previous season in Auburn New York with the Auburn Doubledays.
Pivetta had the honour of starting opening day for the Suns, as well as pitching in the first half All Star game. He is currently listed as the No. 18 prospect on the Nationals web site. He modestly said things just “fell into place,” but a lot of it obviously had to do with the work ethic and skill set Pivetta possesses.
Pivetta finished the season with a 13-8 record, a 4.22 ERA with 98 strikeouts over 26 games including 25 starts. The 13 wins top all Canadians in the minors. Pivetta was quick to compliment his fellow Canadian teammate .
“Cooper had a good year,” Pivetta said. “He was kind of what I call a utility pitcher, he relieved and started.”andrew cooper
Cooper’s role differed a little bit from what he expected as the season went on. He finished his season with a 7-4 record and a 5.91 ERA.
“Going into the season I expected to be a mid/long relief guy and I ended up getting some spot starts,” Cooper said. “I started in college so it was nothing new.”
Staying healthy was a goal for both players as playing 140 games is quite new for them and a grind on the mind and body.
“Coming into the season I wanted to stay healthy,” said Pivetta. “Just to do that and win as many games as I could, not worrying about moving up or down in the system.”
Cooper was clearly on the same page, also saying that “being able to stay healthy through 140 games” was one of his top highlights of the year.
Having two healthy pitchers clearly helped lead the Suns to a very strong season, including a playoff birth and a sweep over Greensboro in the Northern Division championship. Pivetta and Cooper combined for 20 of the teams 87 wins – an impressive 23%. Being a minor league baseball player can be tough. The ups and downs of a minor league season can be grueling in many ways. It was something that both Pivetta and Cooper tried to take in stride.
“They have a plan for me but I don’t really know what the plan is,” Pivetta said.
The two pitchers admit they tried to keep thoughts of moving up out of their minds as both understand the importance of focusing one day at a time and bettering themselves. Both have goals for next season and different aspects of their games they want to improve. For Cooper, consistency with his mechanics is the key.
“I need to work on being consistent day in and day out,” Cooper said. “Avoiding bad habits in my mechanics.”
Along with “working on my bunting,” Pivetta says keeping the ball down and trying to perfect his secondary pitches is where his focus will be this winter.nick pivetta
After a season that saw him give up 15 home runs, “I learned to keep the ball down” Pivetta said. “In college I could throw fastballs in the mid to low 90’s and get away with it, that doesn’t work here.”
Pivetta has a very specific place he wants to start the 2015 campaign.
“I want to start in Potomac (high A),” Pivetta said. “If I don’t it just gives me more incentive to work harder and move up.”
“It was an awesome first year” Pivetta says, but “I have a long way to go.”
Indeed, what an awesome year for these two young Canadian players.
One step at a time.