NEW BRITAIN - Jonathan Pettibone continues to impress.
During a tough four-game series against the Somerset Patriots that saw the New Britain Bees get swept, the right-hander proved to be one of the few bright spots.
For the second straight start, Pettibone tossed five scoreless innings and reached a season-high 99 pitches, the most he has thrown in one outing in two years. His scoreless-innings streak now sits at 13 1/3.
“I was just kind of mixing [my pitches] up,” he said. “[Somerset] seemed like they were aggressive the past couple of games. I was throwing all my pitches. The first time through [the lineup], I was fastball-heavy and then the second time through, I was mixing things up. But it was definitely a grind.”
It has been a long road back for Pettibone. Before the season, the last time he pitched in a competitive game was in 2014. But even with his recent string of success, the 26-year-old still sees room to grow, especially when it comes to the number of pitches he can throw and how he bounces back from each start.
But is he surprised by the way everything has started out? Not in the least he says.
“In a way, I’m still working my way back,” Pettibone said. “But at the same time, you’re wanting to go out there and compete. The big thing for me is to go out there and help the team win some ballgames. But I wouldn’t say I’m surprised. I’ve always felt like I can still pitch. This is right where I see myself.”
And as Pettibone continues to go out and throw well, the question now is how much longer he will remain with the Bees. Those in the clubhouse think he will be packing his bags sooner rather than later. Players that pitch well, especially early, and have experience often get picked up quickly. Casey Coleman lasted just two starts before being signed by the Houston Astros organization.
“He’s a guy that has some time [in the majors] and he’s still young,” Bees catcher James Skelton said of Pettibone. “He just has to show he’s healthy in my opinion. To get Coleman out of here, same thing. He had to show teams that he can pitch and it took him two starts and he had really good stuff. Pettibone, same pitcher. He’s able to throw all pitches throughout the count. Hopefully it happens. If not, we’ll benefit from it.
“I think he’s ready, but teams want to see if he’s healthy. To me he’s ready to go and he’s going to help a team out. We’d love to have him for as long as we can keep him. Until then, we’re just riding the wave.”
Bees manager Stan Cliburn was quick to echo his catcher, noting how much trouble opposing hitters have had against the starter.
“He’s been outstanding,” Cliburn said. “If he keeps this up, he won’t be here long.”
Making it back to affiliated ball, though, is the last thing on his mind, Pettibone said. After those two seasons off, he just wants to show everyone he can still be a reliable starter and then some.
“Right now, I’m just focused on making my starts into the all-star break or whatever it is,” Pettibone said. “Teams want to see me be healthy so that’s kind of the last thing on my mind, worrying about teams or affiliated ball.
“Right now, it’s about getting my innings in, my work in and getting back into a normal routine to make every fifth-day start. That’s been the big thing for me, bouncing back. How I bounce back from each start is my focus, to be honest with you.”
So far, so good.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach