Jonathan Pettibone Makes MLB Debut Amid Mild Expectations

Jonathan Pettibone Makes MLB Debut Amid Mild Expectations
April 22, 2013, 3:55 pm
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Guest post by Matt Hammond

After nabbing International League Pitcher of the Year honors with
a 12-1 mark and 2.35 ERA for the Iron Pigs in Triple-A last year, Tyler Cloyd
got lit up in the six starts following his September callup for the Phillies, for a 2-2
record and 4.91 ERA.

Lot of anticipation. World of let-down. In all, the Cloyd
Experience was kind of a drag.

Tonight, when Jonathan Pettibone makes his Big League debut in
place of the 15-day DL’d John Lannan against A.J. Burnett and the Pirates,
it probably won’t go that way.

Though he might not be Cliff Lee, and probably won't even be Adam
Morgan, Ethan Martin and, someday, Jesse Biddle, the numbers on the 22-year-old
right-handed sinker-and-slider-throwing Pettibone say he probably won’t be
Cloyd, either. 

He’ll probably sooner be, ironically, Aaron Cook.

Unlike Cloyd, who was tagged for eight home runs in six
major-league starts, Pettibone is all about inducing much more harmless ground
balls. His 50.8% ground ball rate in Triple-A Lehigh Valley last year was well
over average for the International League.

Pettibone’s outfield fly ball rate last year was 17.2%, where
Cloyd’s was 30.9%.

Hits are hits, and any kind can score runs, but ground balls
typically lead to fewer extra-base hits, which makes pulling the plug before
it’s too late easier on Charlie Manuel. 

Which is kind of why GM Ruben Amaro signed Cook (his 58.6 GB% in
2012 was second in baseball) this winter: to compete with Rodrigo Lopez to be
the Phillies sixth starter in case of, well, this. It’s also why fans bemoaned
Cook being cut this spring.

If he can’t dazzle, it’s pivotal that Pettibone at the very
least lasts today, seeing as a lengthy run from the bullpen early could impede
the Phillies chances the rest of the series.

Pettibone so far hasn’t been able to duplicate the impressive
4-1 mark and 2.25 ERA he posted after his first promotion to Triple-A last
year. He’s got a shaky 9.64 ERA through two starts with the Iron Pigs this year, after serving six
runs on eight hits in just 5 1/3 innings in his debut, and another four runs in
four innings in his follow up last Tuesday.
 

His next scheduled turn was, conveniently, today. Morgan and
Martin both pitched on Saturday, and Biddle isn’t close to being Big League
ready.

Chris Johnson and Tyler Pastornicky each belted a home run for
the Braves in Pettibone’s only Grapefruit League game this spring, and
Pettibone served four runs in two frames on Apr. 28. Earlier, the Dominican
Republic WBC roster blasted him for another four runs in 2 2/3 once they were
through with Cole Hamels on Mar. 5.

Amaro yesterday said Pettibone's been clocking 91-94 m.p.h. this
year, whereas Cloyd topped out at 87 m.p.h. last year. Curiously, the GM said
Pettibone's stuff has been good, in the same breath as saying his command and
results have been poor. Hmm.

So no, there wasn’t the same hype around Pettibone as there was
Cloyd in 2012. 

Seeing how that went, and how this isn’t likely to,
maybe less will prove more.

*

Matt Hammond is the Phillies Insider and Morning Update Anchor for 97.3 ESPN in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter here.

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