This ‘Phillies 50‘ series on the most random players from each Philadelphia Phillies team during the years 1971-2019 comes to a pitcher who combines low impact on the 2011 ball club combined with a minimal big-league career.
Southpaw pitcher Joe Savery was the Phillies first round choice at 19th overall in the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft out of Rice University in his native Houston, Texas.
Savery had been a two-way threat at Rice, demonstrating success both on the mound and as a first baseman. He was the Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year as both a Freshman and Junior, and led the Owls to the semi-finals of the 2007 College World Series.
However, the Phillies were only interested in developing him on the mound. He pitched well over seven games at short-season Williamsport after signing in that summer of 2007, and as an advanced college prospect was given a shot to pitch even more in the Arizona Fall League.
He struggled a bit while spending the entire 2008 season at High-A Clearwater, and then experienced severe command and control problems while still advancing through Double-A Reading to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in the 2009 season.
In the 2010 season, Savery spent the entire year with the IronPigs and took a step backwards in his development. He compiled a horrendous 1-12 record with a 4.66 ERA and 1.610 WHIP in allowing 154 hits over 127.1 innings across 28 games, 19 of those as a starter. He also produced a troubling 67/51 K:BB ratio.
The 2011 Phillies set a franchise record with 102 regular season victories led by perhaps the best starting rotation in franchise history that included Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, Vance Worley, Joe Blanton, and Kyle Kendrick. The bullpen was solid as well, so there was little room for a struggling left-hander like Savery.
However, that 2011 season was also his best year in pro baseball, perhaps for a couple of reasons. First, his pitching struggles led the Phillies to try switching him back to hitting. He was sent back to High-A Clearwater and given 18 starts at first base and a dozen in left field. Savery slashed .307/.368/.410 with 14 extra-base hits and 25 RBIs over 271 plate appearances.
Playing with increased confidence, the Phillies decided to try him back on the mound, but this time exclusively as a reliever. His fastball, once believed lost for good, suddenly returned and everything appeared to click. Savery went 5-0 while pitching in 25 games out of the bullpen across three levels of the minor league system. He produced a 1.75 ERA while allowing just 32 hits over 36 innings with a 41/6 K:BB ratio. It seemed that perhaps age and experience, renewed confidence, and a full-time bullpen role were combining to make him ready for the big-leagues.
When rosters expanded for September, the Phillies felt that Savery had finally earned the opportunity for a big-league promotion. On September 20, 2011 with the Phillies having clinched not only their fifth straight NL East Division crown but also the top overall seed in the National League for the postseason, Savery’s chance finally came.
On that Tuesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park in a rescheduled game from an earlier rainout, manager Charlie Manuel sent him to the mound to start the 7th inning of a 3-3 game. Savery allowed an infield single to the first batter he faced, Chris Marrero. He then retired Brian Bixler on a sacrifice bunt, with Savery fielding and throwing to first baseman John Bowker for the out. He was then lifted for Brad Lidge, who got out of the inning in a game that the Phillies would ultimately lose by 4-3.
Savery would get into three more games in late September. Over 2.2 total innings he would face nine opposing batters, surrendering one hit and no earned runs while striking out two and walking no one. It was a satisfying ending to a successful season for the now 25-year-old.
The lefty would become a semi-regular bullpen option with the Phillies over the next two seasons, pitching in 37 games in Major League Baseball during the 2012-13 campaigns combined as the Phillies fell from contending status.
Released in the winter following the 2013 season, he was selected off waivers by the Oakland Athletics on Valentine’s Day of 2014. Savery would get to pitch in three games with the A’s in that 2014 season, all in relief.
His final appearance on a big-league mound came during a May 18 game at Progressive Field in Cleveland when he pitched the final two innings of a 13-3 romp by the A’s over the host Indians. He retired Nick Swisher on a grounder to shortstop for the final out and walked off the mound celebrating the victory, having no idea that it would be for the final time.
The A’s sent him back to the minors then designated him for assignment on September 1, 2014. He signed a minor league deal with the Chicago White Sox in January of 2015 and went to spring training, but the Chisox released him in late March. He announced his retirement shortly thereafter.