About 7 minutes reading time.

Phillies Prospect, Italian P Samuel Aldegheri, Making Progress Towards Majors

 Jon Caroulis  |    Apr 17th, 2024 12:57pm EDT

Sam Aldegheri, #74 of the Philadelphia Phillies, throws a pitch during the seventh inning of a spring training game. (Photo by George Kubas/Diamond Images via Getty Images)

LAKEWOOD, N.J. – The game-time temperature in Lakewood, N.J., at 6:35 p.m. was 49 degrees, with a 15-mph breeze blowing out to right field on Friday, April 5.

It was opening night for the Jersey Shore BlueClaws, and there was a capacity crowd. Into these windy conditions and onto the mound stepped Samuel Aldegheri.

They were the coldest conditions he had pitched through in six years.

The left-handed Aldegheri was born and raised in Verona, Italy. Between the Mediterranean weather of his home country and having spent the bulk of his time in the Philadelphia Phillies organization in Florida, it had been a while since he pitched in the cold, wet circumstances he faced on opening night.

“It was a pretty easy option for him to start that opening night. He kind of earned that opportunity,” BlueClaws manager Greg Brodzinski said.

“One thing we look at in our organization are guys that put in the work, do the right things. I think he did a really good job this offseason of working on his body and taking care of his arm and (was in a) really good place to come in spring training, ready to go,” said Brodzinski.

“Fans were leaving in the fourth and fifth inning,” said Aldegheri, who pitched into the fifth inning in a game the BlueClaws won 3-2 over the Aberdeen Ironbirds. He allowed an unearned run on two hits, struck out four, and walked four.

“Too many,” said Aldegheri of the four free passes.

When Brodzinski took Aldegheri out of the opening night contest, he said, “I thought at that point in the game he had done his job, and he really competed his butt off. At that moment it was the right decision to go get him. I knew our next guy could pick him up.”

Brad Bergesen, one of two BlueClaws pitching coaches, said, “For a guy to throw into the fifth inning in his first game, I thought it was tremendous. I thought he had a great outing.”

Aldegheri signed with the Phillies in 2019, when he was 19. If he makes it to the Major Leagues, he’ll be the first Italian-born pitcher to do so in over 70 years.

And that player – Marino Pieretti, who pitched for the Washington Senators, Chicago White Sox, and Cleveland Indians from 1945-50 – came to the United States as a child, settling in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood.

Growing up in the Verona region of Italy, Aldegheri took up baseball because of his older brother, Mattia, who played the game.

“My parents didn’t have time (from their jobs) to spend taking me to soccer practice,” he said, but a baseball field was only a few minutes away, “and a coach (said to me), okay, let’s try, and I fell in love with baseball.”

Mattia Aldegheri pitches in Italy’s Serie A, a professional league that Sam says is similar to Low-A in the United States.

The Aldegheri brothers also watched American baseball on YouTube. Samuel Aldegheri said Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw made a big impression on him.

A Phillies scout who covers Europe for the team saw Aldegheri pitch and thought he had potential. That scout recommended him to Sal Agostinelli, the director of international scouting for the Phillies, who was planning a European scouting trip. He watched Aldegheri and liked what he saw.

Other major league teams were interested in him, so the Phillies offered Aldegheri $210,000 to sign with them.

“The bonus was really good, and I decided to follow my dream,” said Aldegheri. He missed the entire 2020 season because of the pandemic and did not pitch much the following year because of a ligament injury.

Preston Mattingly, the Phillies former director of minor league development and now the club’s assistant general manager, was at the BlueClaws’ opening night game to see Aldegheri and other players on the team.

He said that when he first saw Aldegheri, he “was banged up, and he was getting healthy. So I think the one thing that’s changed is he’s been healthy the last year and a half. I think his body’s changed, too. It’s a credit to him. He’s put a lot of work in the off-season in the weight room with the nutrition team, and he’s a very cerebral kid who’s looking to improve in any way he can, and he’s taking advantage of the resources we have here. He’s really got his body in a really good spot.”

When Aldegheri pitched for Jersey Shore last year, he noticed, “the hitters here are much more patient (than in Low-A). In Low-A ball, I could just throw my fastball. Here, you have to throw a breaking ball. The hitters are better at being patient.”

Mattingly said, “We thought he was ready to take the next challenge and expose him to a higher level and to get him out of Florida. He has been a guy who’s been at the complex and training down there from his rehab, so we wanted to expose him to get him up north to Jersey and let him taste a little bit different atmosphere.”

Aldegheri has a four-pitch arsenal: a fastball, a slider that can be an out pitch, a curveball, and a changeup, which he has a good feel for.

“If we can continue to make Sammy’s changeup a little big better, he’s got a good feel for it right now, and he’s flashed plenty of good ones, that’s an area we want to work at. He’s shown a really, really good slider, so we want to capture the really really good ones that he’s doing right now and make them that much more consistent; I think we’re there,” said Bergesen. “He’s got four quality pitches he can throw. It’s really just refining some of those. He’s shown the ability to flash really good changeups, and especially with sliders, too; we just want to continue to make those consistent and be the best versions of them.”

Through two appearances this season, Aldegheri hasn’t allowed an earned run in 10.1 innings and notched 11 strikeouts. If Aldegheri makes enough progress at the High-A level this year, would the Phillies consider promoting him to Double-A during the season?

“We always do what’s best for the kid. And I think if he shows us, from a mentality standpoint, a durability standpoint, that he’s ready to take the next step, he’s definitely a guy that we would look to push if he’s throwing the ball well,” said Mattingly.

Aldegheri returns to Italy a few times each year. He comes to the U.S. in January, works out at the Phillies minor league complex until February, and then visits home, where he has a girlfriend. He returns to begin the season and then returns to his native country in October.

He noted that his English has rapidly improved.

When he first arrived, “it was terrible,” he said, but “last season, I had two roommates, one from Canada and the other from Kansas City, and talking to them and watching and listening to television helped.”