By: Alexis Brudnicki
Canadian Baseball Network
With a change in circumstance and a variation in location, Nick Pivetta will get his first shot at wearing his country’s colours at the senior level this spring, when the native of Victoria, BC suits up for Team Canada at the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
“It’ll be my first time with the senior team,” Pivetta told CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury last Thursday during the Philadelphia Phillies annual winter seminar for the organization’s top prospects. “I’m so excited to be able to represent my country and play for Team Canada.”
Ending a very impressive stint on the Canadian Junior National Team with a strain to the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow before heading to New Mexico Junior College and then pro ball, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander’s return to Team Canada is a highly-anticipated homecoming. After unsuccessful attempts to have him on previous senior squad rosters, Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada’s director of national teams, is excited to finally have Pivetta back with the program.
“He’s been on our radar and would have been part of two or three things that we’ve done over the past couple years, but it just hasn’t fit,” Hamilton said. “Nick played on the junior team for a couple of years, we’re very familiar with him, and he’s a big, strong, physical kid with a good slider and a good sinker.
“He would have been on two or three rosters by now, had things worked out in terms of timing, where he was innings-wise, and where his career was professionally, and unfortunately didn’t fit, but not by our desire, and certainly not for lack of his desire, just certain circumstances didn’t allow for it to happen. We’ve been trying to get him in a uniform again for a while now.”
Originally selected in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by the Washington Nationals, the 23-year-old spent his first two-and-a-half professional seasons working his way up their organization. Heading into the 2015 season, the highly-touted hurler had an invitation to play for Baseball Canada’s senior team on home soil at the Pan Am Games. Protecting their prospect, the Nationals put the idea to bed early.
“I knew I wasn’t going to go straight out of spring training because I was told,” Pivetta said at the end of last season. “I was told by the organization, and once I was told no it was fine. I’ll get my opportunities eventually.”
Just days after the Pan Am Games ended with a gold-medal finish for the Canadian squad – its second consecutive gold at the tournament – Pivetta was traded by the Nats to the Phillies for veteran closer Jonathan Papelbon.
Not only did the change bring him to an organization with a number of Canadian ties, it also gave Pivetta some face time with Phils catching coordinator Ernie Whitt, who also happens to be the manager for Canada’s senior national squad.
With the Pan Am Games a thing of the past and the WBC around the corner, Pivetta remained focused on his season last year between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but admitted to sharing some conversations with Whitt about what lay ahead.
“Right now I’m focused on finishing up the season here and what happens, happens,” the righty said in August, after a start in Buffalo against the Bisons. “It would be great if I made that team, but it is during spring training. Ernie Whitt has been around all year and I’ve talked to him numerous times, and right now I’m just focused on Lehigh Valley and not really anything else.”
Beginning his season with Reading, Pivetta started 22 games for the Fightin’ Phils. He went 11-6 with a 3.41 ERA over 124 innings, walking 41 and striking out 111. In Lehigh Valley, the Canuck hurler found even more consistency in his five starts, posting a 2.55 mark over 24 2/3 frames, walking 10 and striking out 27, earning him Canadian Baseball League Pitcher of the Year honours.
“It’s only my third year and I made it to Triple-A, which is a big accomplishment,” Pivetta said. “I didn’t think I was going to make it this far this year. My eyes were dead set on spending the whole entire year in Double-A. It’s a bonus being here and being able to have this short time with these guys and working with these guys…
“I was preparing to be in Reading all year. If it was going to happen, it was going to happen. The team was doing really well down there and I was happy to be there. It was good, but the fact that they wanted me to get up here and get my feet wet in Triple-A feels pretty good.”
Excited for what the future holds, Pivetta believes that the trade was the best thing for his young career.
“I love the Phillies organization,” the two-time winner of the CBN’s Pitcher of the Year Award said. “They really brought me in with open arms, taught me how the Phillies way is, and I don’t think it could have turned out any better for me…the atmosphere here is great, and having older guys here [in Lehigh Valley] to lead the younger guys and help them out is a really good experience.”
Looking forward to more of the same, Pivetta is determined to take each day by day and focus on the task at hand as he continues his progression.
“Coming into the season I focused on being consistent and that’s what I’ve gone through for the whole entire year,” he said. “Instead of getting my head too far ahead of my own [development] I’m focusing on my end on what I’m doing and what I can do to help my team win.”
With plenty of success already under his belt, the next squad that Pivetta will be looking to help win is Team Canada.