Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta: Who he is and what we can expect from him

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 10: Nick Pivetta #43 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch in the ninth inning during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on August 10, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies won 13-8. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 10: Nick Pivetta #43 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers a pitch in the ninth inning during a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park on August 10, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies won 13-8. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

Red Sox righty Nick Pivetta to make his debut against Orioles

We all knew that the Red Sox were going to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline and they did exactly that. Boston CBO Chaim Bloom took contracts that were either expiring or just carried little to no value and flipped them for prospects to rebuild down the road. One of the players that he brought to the organization was veteran pitcher Nick Pivetta. The four-year starter has spent some time in Pawtucket getting familiar with the team, and tonight, he makes his Fenway Park debut.

So, who is Nick Pivetta? Great question! The righty was drafted by the Washington Nationals back in 2013 where he stayed in the minors until he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies for former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. At that time Pivetta had the aura of potential swirling around him and was seen as a strong enough piece to bring the wild reliever to Washington. He would spend the next few years between Double-A and Triple-A until his call-up in 2017.

Pivetta started 26 games in his rookie season and quickly things began to turn for the right-hander. He would finish the year with a 6.02 ERA through 133IP and a 1.511 WHIP, compared to his final two MiLB seasons where his ERA was a 3.27 and 1.41 respectively.

His sophomore year was closer to what we had seen from him in the minors as he dropped his ERA to 4.77 while setting career highs in starts (32), innings (164), strikeouts (188), WHIP (1.305), and FIP (3.79). All in all, a pretty damn good year by pretty much anyone’s standards.

Unfortunately, after 2018 the train would go off the tracks a bit as every metric would seemingly get worse while he was also pulled from being a starter. In three games with Philly, this season Pivetta has a nightmarish 15.88 ERA in just 5.2 IP while carrying a 9.71 FIP and 1.941 WHIP. He’s given up 10 hits this season, three of which are home runs, while only striking out four. What exactly did Bloom see in him that he just had to have him? Well, Chaim answered that question.

"“He’s a big, physical, power pitcher,” Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom said Aug. 21. “He’s got a really good fastball. Good breaking ball. He also has a changeup. A guy that’s shown the ability to carry a starter’s workload. And a lot of the underlying traits there have shown the potential for a lot more success than he’s enjoyed in terms of his results.”"

When you boil that down to the absolute basics, it feels like Chaim is still hoping that Pivetta will live up to the potential that was seen with the Nats and in the minors with the Phillies. This isn’t the first time that the Red Sox and Bloom have taken a chance on a pitcher in 2020. Ever heard of Martin Perez? Of course, you have! And since I’m the resident Perez Fan Club President here at BSI, I’m not sure lightning will strike twice.

The big difference between the two is that we’ve seen Perez perform at a strong level in the Majors for more than one season. He may have never been able to string a full campaign together but he’d shown enough that it felt like more than just wishful thinking. Pitching coach Dave Bush has worked wonders with Martin this season and very well may be able to pull off another masterful performance and salvage the righty.

Now that we’ve taken the walk down memory lane let’s take a turn and see what the future may hold for Pivetta and the Red Sox. He was originally set to become a free agent in 2023 but because Boston waited so long in order to promote him this season he doesn’t qualify until 2024. So, he’s under control for the next few years and the rotation is still very much in flux.

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We have no idea what form Chris Sale will return as after Tommy John surgery. There still isn’t a definitive answer on not only when Eduardo Rodriguez can return but possibly even if. Then there’s the dynamic duo of 2020 in Nathan Eovaldi and Perez. Eovaldi is locked up for another two years and will hit the market in 2023 while Martin has an option for 2021. If Pivetta can have a couple of strong starts to end 2020 and coming to spring training ready to rock, he very well may have a spot in the 2021 rotation.

For tonight, I have no idea how long we’ll see him, especially with just a handful of games left. There no longer is a worry about overworking the bullpen or leaving a starter in too long if it becomes a blowout. The Red Sox have been mathematically eliminated from October and have a chance at a top draft pick if the reports from today are to be true. It may behoove Boston to leave Pivetta in if he’s getting rocked, at this point in the season, losses mean a hell of a lot more than wins.

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Overall, I think we’re getting a pitcher similar to Rick Porcello with the hopes that he finds the magic that Perez has. A guy with tons of potential and positive traits that just haven’t solved the riddle yet. He may have good outings but they’ll most likely be followed by painful ones. In the long run, I can see him in the early version of the 2021 rotation until the health of E-Rod and Sale becomes more clear, then get put in the bullpen as a long reliever. Only time will tell, for all I know, he may wind be excelling with the Red Sox and just needed the right team to believe in him.