Should Red Sox fans worry about Nick Pivetta's poor rehab start?

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Boston Red Sox v Oakland Athletics / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages
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The Boston Red Sox's starting rotation is missing three key pieces. One made his first rehab start on May 2 after a flexor strain sent him to the injured list.

Nick Pivetta pitched three-plus innings for the Worcester Red Sox in his first outing since his placement on the 15-day IL, retroactive to April 6. It's been many more than 15 days since the announcement of Pivetta's ailment and Red Sox fans were anxiously awaiting his return to action.

His start didn't go the way Pivetta hoped. The righty allowed four runs on three hits and four walks against Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The numbers sharply contrast his two big-league starts that predate his injury — Pivetta posted a 0.82 ERA with 13 strikeouts and one walk in 11 innings to open his 2024 season.

The going hope was that Pivetta would make one rehab start and be on his way back to the big leagues, but after a shaky first outing, Boston could opt for a second game with the WooSox. Pivetta doesn't need to rush, as Tanner Houck, Kutter Crawford and the Sox's backup starters have largely held down the fort in his absence, but it would be nice to see him in the majors sooner rather than later.

Nick Pivetta's first rehab start was shaky, but Red Sox fans shouldn't panic yet

Pivetta said his arm felt good health-wise, but he hoped to throw more strikes. His command was a bit shaky with Worcester, and the accuracy will come with time.

The righty admitted to struggling with the minor leagues' automatic balls and strikes system (ABS). Pivetta believes that the strike zone doesn't match up with MLB's and that he hopes the system "never comes to baseball."

Some of Pivetta's rehab struggles could be linked to his lack of practice with the automated strike zone. A stark uptick in walks from his prior performances could be a change in boundaries or shoddy command, possibly a combination of the two.

Despite his run total, Pivetta's rehab start was a step in the right direction for Boston and its depleted lineup. It may take another rehab outing or just one reunion with his teammates and pitching coach Andrew Bailey to get Pivetta back on track. After all, it's been a while since he's thrown.

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