The Phillies continue to try and piece together a bullpen of the future. Just a few hours ago, the team claimed left handed reliever Zac Curtis off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. Curtis was designated for assignment earlier this week by the Mariners after pitching in three games for Seattle this season. He allowed zero runs over 4.2 innings pitched, while giving up just three hits and surrendering one walk.
Curtis was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB Draft after a career at Middle Tennessee State, eight picks after the Phillies selected a lefty of their own, Florida State junior Brandon Leibrandt. Curtis appeared in 24 games that season for the D-backs Short Season A affiliate, the Hillsboro Hops. He went 2-1, picking up 14 saves in 15 chances, with a 1.00 flat ERA. He struckout 42 batters in just 27 innings of work.
Arizona promoted him to Full Season A, the Kane County Cougars, to start the 2015 season. Curtis pitched in Single A all season, appearing in 53 games. He saw similar success at this level, holding down a 1.33 ERA and 4-4 record over the course of the season. He worked as the Cougars closer as well, converting 33 of 36 saves over 54 innings pitched. He continued his dominant strikeout numbers, punching out 75 over those 54 innings. Command was a major factor for Curtis in 2015, as he walked just 12 batters the entire season. He walked 12 in 2014 as well, but pitched in exactly half the amount of innings as in 2015.
The Diamondbacks continued the then 24-year-old into Advanced A to start the 2016 season with the Visalia Rawhide. Curtis struggled in eight appearances with Visalia to a tune of a 5.23 ERA over 10.1 innings pitched. His command wasn’t nearly as stellar, as he walked five batters in those 10.1 innings while also allowing 12 hits. What kept the Diamondbacks’ front office in goods spirits was, again, his strikeout ratio. Curtis struckout 22 over the course of his 10.1 innings of work. He also converted two out of three save opportunities. This was good enough for Arizona to promote him to AA Mobile to join the Baybears.
He pitched in 19 games total in 2016 for the Baybears, throwing 19.2 innings, locking down four out of five save opportunities. He struckout 30 in his time at Mobile and cut the walks to six that season.
On April 30 of 2016, Curtis made his Major League debut for the Diamondbacks. Over the course of 2016, he’d appear in 21 games for Arizona, struggling to find consistency. He allowed 10 earned runs over 13.1 innings pitched, working to a 6.75 ERA. The strikeouts remained a constant, however, as he punched out 10 batters in those 13.1 innings. He was sent back down to Mobile in June, recalled again in July, once again sent back down as July became August and called up after the season was over to be put on the roster for 2018.
That offseason, however, the Diamondbacks packaged Curtis, shortstop Jean Segura and center fielder Mitch Hanigar and sent them to the Seattle Mariners for starter Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte.
Curtis reported to the Mariners’ AAA affiliate, the Arkansas Travelers, to begin 2017. In early May, he made his Mariners’ debut, but just four days later, was sent back down to Arkansas. The same thing happened in June, but this time, just one day passed before he was relocated again. Curtis effectively lived out of a suitcase for a greater part of this season. Then, on September 4, the Mariners DFA’d Curtis.
In 41 games for the Travelers, Curtis held down a 3.51 ERA and converted 13 of 17 save opportunities. He struckout 60 over 51.1 innings pitched. In his professional career, Curtis has amassed 241 strikeouts over 180.1 innings pitched. Working out of the bullpen, that averages out to be over 12 strikeouts per nine innings.
Curtis features three pitches in his arsenal. He uses a four seam fastball that averages just under 92 miles per hour. He fires that nearly 60 percent of the time. He also uses an 84-miles-per-hour slider that he uses 32 percent of the time. Finally, he mixes in a handful of changeups that come in at about 87. He only uses that about eight percent of the time. While he doesn’t have blow you away velocity, Curtis uses the plate and location to his advantage, as you can tell by his strikeout to walk ratio. As mentioned earlier, Curtis strikes out about 12 per nine innings. Comparatively, he walks just over three per nine innings pitched, as he’s surrender 58 free passes in 180.1 career innings pitched.
Curtis gives the Phillies some roster flexibility for the rest of 2017 and into the future. He still has a minor league option to be used if the Phillies choose. He’s currently under team control for another two seasons, and can’t become an unrestricted free agent until 2023, when he’s 31-years-old.
In order to find a spot on the 40-man roster, the Phillies have moved relief pitcher Jessen Therrien to the 60-Day DL with a right elbow strain.
Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports