Pivetta doing his best work from Boston bullpen

Righty keeps running with relief role, logging 5 strong innings (8 K's) in win over A's

July 8th, 2023

BOSTON -- Call him a starter in the bullpen. Call him a bulk-inning reliever. Label it whatever you’d like.

is dominating in his new role, which started as a demotion when told on May 17 that he was out of the rotation after struggling mightily in eight starts (6.30 ERA, .885 opponents OPS).

Was Pivetta, who has always fancied himself as a starter, thrilled about the move? Absolutely not. Instead, it appears he has used it as a motivating factor.

Pivetta refined what he needed to refine and has turned into an impact pitcher for the Red Sox.

While earning the win for the Red Sox as they downed the Athletics, 7-3, on Friday night at Fenway Park, Pivetta stretched out to five innings and 76 pitches, both season highs since he moved to the ‘pen.

Pivetta gave up two earned runs (on a two-run homer by Seth Brown) but otherwise dazzled, walking one and striking out eight.

“The last one was 67 pitches, today was [76], and we like this, we like this structure,” manager Alex Cora said. “It gives you the liberty of bringing him in whenever you feel like it as far as the lineup.”

At a time when the Sox have just three traditional starting pitchers left in their injury-depleted rotation in James Paxton, Brayan Bello and Kutter Crawford, it is natural to wonder if Pivetta could be moved back to the starting rotation.

However, Cora all but put an end to that debate after Friday’s series opener.

“He’s not going to start,” Cora said.

Boston doesn’t want to tinker with Pivetta’s role given how well he is pitching.

In truth, the club values Pivetta’s ability to go five to seven innings every fifth day or so in a relief role, feeling it is basically equivalent to using him as a starter, but with the bonus of being able to dictate which part of the lineup he faces and when.

“If he starts and goes five, then same thing right?” Cora said. “So it really doesn’t matter. Maybe the stats or whatever, but at the end of the day, he’s getting his innings in and been dominating so I think the last thing we have to worry about is for him to become a starter.

“He’s going to get a lot of outs and he knows it. When? It’s just a matter of how the game dictates.”

Does Pivetta feel more like a starter on nights like Friday, when he goes five innings?

“I mean, I came out of the bullpen,” Pivetta said. “You know, it's a relief appearance to me. I went five innings, and it was good to get some length for us, especially after yesterday. I think that's what's most important is to put the team in a good position to win a baseball game.

“Guys came out swinging early and made it easy for the pitching staff as a whole.”

Does Cora have a ceiling on how far he will stretch Pivetta out as a reliever?

“If he goes out there and gives us six or seven, that’s great,” Cora said. “It really doesn’t matter. He’s a reliever now, but we know he can go deep into the games. It just happens he starts his game in the third inning.”

When Pivetta moved to the bullpen, it was hard to project how he would do, given that he really didn’t have any extensive relief experience other than 2019 with the Phillies.

“I think people were making a big deal like he was going to go out there and pout,” Cora said. “What’s he going to do, not pitch? If you want innings you’ve got to be better. I think he’s been able to attack, relax a little and it’s a different mindset and we like this version of Nick.”

Pivetta has made the move look good, notching a 2.79 ERA while compiling 39 strikeouts in 29 innings and holding opponents to a .146 average and an OPS of .513.

“I mean, he's a dog,” outfielder Jarren Duran said. “I never doubted him for a second. He's been one of our guys from the start and I have complete confidence in him, and he's doing what we know he can do.”

Is there any reason Pivetta can pinpoint for his bullpen breakthrough?

“Nothing in particular. I think I'm just being me, staying in my mechanics, getting ahead of guys and then just utilizing my stuff in each individual count,” Pivetta said.