By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Joe Savery was the Phillies #1 pick in the 2007 draft. And Savery has spent much of this season pitching out of the bullpen for the Phils, so on the surface it would appear to be a simple case of a talented player finally getting his shot. But if you look a little deeper, it is much more interesting than that.
“It’s been a crazy ride,” Savery tells KYW Newsradio. “I certainly didn’t write it up this way. I pictured my first year going more like the second half of last year did, but that’s just not the way it worked. I’ve seen that nothing is for sure and I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to play in the big leagues and realize a dream because for awhile it looked like I didn’t have what it took.”
Savery was a star with the bat and on the mound at Rice University, but the Phillies drafted him to pitch. He worked his way up the ladder – in 2009 he went 16-4 between AA Reading and AAA Lehigh Valley. But then the wheels fell off. Way off. Savery went 1-12 for the Iron Pigs in 2010 and completely fell off the prospect radar. He fell off to the point where it was determined that he would move back to the field in 2011 and he dropped back down to Single-A Clearwater and played first base and some outfield.
“The hitting was kind of an open conversation,” Savery says. “That wasn’t (the Phillies) approaching me and saying, ‘This is what we want you to do’. We talked about the idea, they had looked at some options, so that was a very open conversation.”
Savery took to the change – he hit .307 in 54 games with the Threshers. But one of those games was a 23-inning loss to Jupiter in late May that saw Savery return to the mound in relief out of necessity. He threw two shutout innings and his career path was about to change yet again.
“After I threw that extra-inning game at (Clearwater) High-A and heard what my velocity was (low 90’s), I knew that was probably the beginning of the end of hitting, regardless of how good I was doing. But I was thankful for that, I mean I hadn’t been able to throw that fast in a long time. Fortunately, my arm strength has kept up and I hope it stays that way.”
Savery actually thinks taking a break from pitching, probably helped him make it to the big leagues as a pitcher.
“It absolutely helped. Mentally, physically, mechanically, just a break from all of it in all those different ways really helped out in the end.”
Savery was moved to the bullpen and up to Double-A Reading soon after that extra-inning appearance and then a promotion to the Iron Pigs rapidly followed. The whirlwind concluded with him finally getting to the big leagues and making four appearances for the Phillies last season.
Then this year Savery made the Phillies Opening Day roster and he has spent much of the year with the big club – save a couple of quick trips back up the Northeast Extension to Lehigh Valley. In 16 games with the Phillies here in 2012, Savery is 0-2 with a 4.43 ERA and he thinks he is getting there.
“You know I think I’ve gotten better. We’re having a little bit of trouble being consistent, but I think I’ve gotten better and getting a little more comfortable every time out. Probably been here a little more than anyone expected, but I’m thankful for that. Just trying to get better and learn how to get these big leaguers out.”
Savery and the Phillies open a weekend series with Tampa Bay Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.