When the Philadelphia Phillies signed A.J. Burnett on Saturday, they had to let one member of the 40-man roster go, and that turned out to be left-handed pitcher Joe Savery, who was quickly picked up by the Oakland Athletics on Monday.
With that, the Phillies said goodbye to what might have been the most interesting experiment in baseball in a long time had Savery lived up to his potential and became a dependable no. 4 or no. 5 starter. They could have had a lineup that went nine hitters deep in a NL, where the no. 9 spot is usually considered an automatic out. There have been other good-hitting pitchers in the league to be sure, but not a guy who was a star hitter and pitcher for a top-level college program.
When Savery was a player at Rice University, he was known as a top prospect both as a pitcher and a hitter. The Phillies flipped a coin, took Savery in 2006 June draft with one year of eligibility remaining for the Owls, gave him a $1.3 million signing bonus and tried to make him a hitter. When that didn’t work out, they tried to make him a pitcher.
At Rice, a top-level college baseball program, Savery played first base on days he did not pitch in 2006 and finished first in Conference USA in hits (85), RBIs (66), doubles (21), walks (50) and on-base percentage (.442). He hit .335 for the season — all in addition to posting a 5-1 record on the mound with a 2.76 ERA.
Had Savery made the Phils as a starting pitcher, he could have also given them a reliable bat. Since the A’s picked him up, things might work out for him in that organization, but the shame of it all is that Savery would have been an interesting novelty in a league where there are already too many automatic outs.