With Tuesday's announcement that lefty reliever Joe Savery had been named to the Phillies 2012 Opening Day roster, another chapter was added to one of the more improbable stories in recent baseball history.
Savery, 26, was a 2007 first-round selection out of Rice University, where he starred both on the mound and at the plate. Although Savery struggled in his junior year after offseason surgery, the Phillies still drafted him as a pitcher. For the next few seasons, he bounced around the minors as a starting pitcher, showing glimpses of the ability that led to his selection, but was mostly mediocre, with a fastball rarely cracking the high 80s and poor command.
Throughout it all, though, Savery kept hitting, including an .826 OPS at Triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2010. That performance, and his struggles on the mound, contributed to the Phillies decision to convert Savery to a 1B/DH for 2011. After a red-hot start with the Clearwater Threshers, Savery cooled somewhat at the plate after promotions to both Double-A Reading and then Lehigh Valley where, as fate would have it, Savery returned to the mound. And he was a new man.
Now exclusively a reliever, the six-foot-three inch Savery's fastball began touching the mid-90s, sitting around 91-93. Savery's combined pitching line over three levels last season: 1.50 ERA, 36 innings, no home runs, 41 strikeouts and, perhaps most encouraging, just six walks.
So what happened? It's hard to say. Did the half season as a hitter "reboot" Savery as a pitcher? Did his semi-successful run as a hitter restore his flagging confidence in all aspects of his game? I don't know, and you don't either, but the point is that in 12 months Savery went from a washout, wasted pick, to a potentially integral part of a World Series contender's bullpen.
And who knows, maybe he can still hit a little bit.