The road wasn’t easy for pitcher Joe Savery.
In fact, the same time last year Savery wasn’t even referred to as a pitcher. But that doesn’t matter now to Savery.
He summed it up with one word yesterday shortly after finding out that he did make the team: “Unbelievable.”
The story is in fact unbelievable.
Savery was drafted in the first round (19th overall) of the amateur draft in 2007 as a pitcher. But after struggling throughout the system from Single-A Williamsport in 2007 to Triple-A Lehigh in 2010, Savery tried his hand at hitting since he had a good handle of the bat.
The Phillies converted him to a first baseman, sending him to the Florida Instructional League at the end of 2010 to work on his hitting and fielding of the first base position.
Savery started the 2011 season in Single-A Clearwater, where he hit .307 (63-for-228) with two homers and 25 RBIs in 54 games. But he struggled behind the plate when he was called up to Double-A Reading.
Fortunately for him, the Phillies noticed that he was gaining velocity back in his left arm and they decided to convert him back to a pitcher. Savery thinks the nine-month layoff and playing the field may have played a hand in the art of pitching coming back to him.
“Being in the infield and having to shorten up my arm motion helped,” Savery said. “And the rest was just an act of God… I don’t know how to explain it. I’d like to think those things were part of it, but it just doesn’t make sense to me sometimes.”
In 18 games and 25 innings with the IronPigs, Savery went 4-0 and boasted a 1.80 ERA, striking out 26 while walking only six. He was so impressive that the Phillies gave him a look last September where he pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball in four different appearances.
This spring, Savery had only one goal on his mind: to make the big league club and take advantage of the openings created in the bull pen.
In seven games and 10 1/3 innings, Savery allowed four runs for a 3.48 ERA while striking out nine. Strong numbers but not ground-breaking.
Perhaps it was his last outing against the Braves on April 1 that impressed manager Charlie Manuel and Amaro.
Savery pitched the 5th and 6th innings of the Phillies’ 7-7 tie with the Braves, allowing one run. In the 5th, Savery gave up a lead off single and walked the next two batters before inducing two pop-ups and a ground-out to end the threat without any damage done.
“It’s a great story,” general manager Ruben Amaro said. “The guy worked really hard to get to the point where he got himself back to being a major league-caliber pitcher. He helped us last year at the end of the year. He came a long way, and we felt like he’s got the stuff to be able to help us.”
The next step for Savery is to stay. He’s gotten two chances already, but as many failed Major League stories go, a pitcher never knows when his last chance was spent.
“I know I’m not going to stay here if I don’t get people out,” Savery said. “It’s a nice story and will probably make some people feel good, but if I don’t help this team they won’t need me to stay here.”
Quotes from John Smallwood’s article about Savery on Philly.com.