MIAMI – Canada faces a must-win contest Saturday against Colombia to remain alive at the World Baseball Classic, and will be counting on Philadelphia Phillies prospect Nick Pivetta to get things off on the right foot.
That’s a tough spot to throw a 24-year-old with five starts at triple-A under his belt, not that the self-assured right-hander from Victoria seems to be feeling any nerves.
“I’m super, super excited. That’s my game, that’s a game that I want,” he said Friday after Canada’s workout at Marlins Park. “We’re going to go out there, we’re going to win and the guys that we have behind me, we have an amazing clubhouse, those guys old and young, everyone co-exists in a perfect, I want to say symphony, everyone is on the same page right now.
“We went out there last night, we put forth a really good step, that Dominican Republic team, hats off to them, they’re a phenomenal team, you probably won’t see a better team and we stuck with them until the latter part of the game. We’re going to put that same foot forward and we’re going to beat that team.”
Pivetta said that last part matter-of-factly rather than with bravado, a window into the Canadian mindset. Thursday’s 9-2 loss to the Dominican Republic was frustrating but by no means did it rattle the Canadians, who simply aren’t as deep as the defending tournament champions.
Or, as reliever Eric Gagne described them, “that billion-dollar starting lineup.”
The task won’t be nearly as tall Saturday against Colombia, which will start Atlanta Braves ace Julio Teheran in the contest.
Pivetta, a fourth-round pick of the Washington Nationals in 2013 and traded to the Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon in 2015, features a heavy sinker and a good curveball along with a slider and changeup.
In 22 starts with double-A Reading, he posted a 3.41 ERA and 1.202 WHIP while in five outings at triple-A Lehigh Valley, his ERA was 2.55 with a WHIP of 1.216. He credited his progress to developing more consistency with his fastball command and his preparation on the mound.
The plan is for him to stay the course against Colombia.
“Mentally you go about it like it’s an ordinary start,” said Pivetta. “You’re going to face these guys eventually in the major leagues and minor leagues, you can’t up-play it, you can’t downplay it, just go about it like you always do and believe in yourself, put a plan together and stick to that plan.”
At the same time, he plans to make sure he enjoys it.
“This is probably going to be one of the plateaus that I have,” said Pivetta. “I’ll have playing for Team Canada in the WBC and then making it to the big-leagues, along with when I first got drafted and my first professional starts. Those are pedestals, this is one of them, I’m going to surpass it, we’re going to go out there and win [Saturday], so it’s going to be good.”
ALL HANDS ON DECK:
Canada manager Ernie Whitt said everyone is available to pitch Saturday except for Ryan Dempster, who will be at his disposal Sunday against the United States.
Among the relievers who caught his eye was St. Louis Cardinals prospect Rowan Wick, who struck out 57 batters over 44.1 innings at single-A and double-A last year, and threw a scoreless eighth against the Dominicans, retiring Robinson Cano and Carlos Santana on a fielder’s choice in the process.
“The reason we brought him in was because we wanted him to experience this type of atmosphere and see how he handled it,” said Whitt. “It’s a learning curve for us too as coaches to see how an individual handled 30,000 people in the stands, and most of them were against us. We used that as a learning curve and I thought he handled himself very well.”
United States manager Jim Leyland confirmed Friday that Danny Duffy will start Sunday against the Canadians but Ernie Whitt’s starter remains TBA and will be until after Saturday.
“It’s just a combination of everything,” he said of the factors involved. “We’ll sit down as a staff and we’ll determine which direction we might go. But, honestly I’m not worried about Sunday. I’m worried about [Saturday] afternoon. That’s what I’m mostly worried about.”
START FOR STRO:
Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman starts for the United States against the Dominican Republic on Saturday night, a decision American manager Jim Leyland said came after careful consultations.
“Well, he’s another guy that was all excited about it,” he said. “I think he’s a very good young right-handed pitcher. We’re actually going to piggyback him and [Tanner] Roark. I thought he was a very good candidate. We had a situation really where either one of them could have started, so we talked that through, like you do. We talked that through face to face. This was the decision that we came up with. Everybody was on board with it.”