BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - MAY 16: Nick Pivetta #37 of the Boston Red Sox looks on during the fourth inning against the Seattle Mariners at Fenway Park on May 16, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)
For anyone paying attention, it was really just a matter of time. Nick Pivetta wasn’t paying attention. Or maybe he just didn’t want to acknowledge the reality.
Clearly, it was more of the latter.
After last night’s win over the Seattle Mariners, the Red Sox did what most everyone expected and trimmed their rotation back to five starters, sending Pivetta to the bullpen. For the time, at least, the Sox are more committed to keeping Tanner Houck as a starter than they are to Pivetta, who is 3-3 with a 6.30 ERA this season. If Pivetta had the 44 innings currently needed to qualify for the ERA title – he possesses just 40 – he would rank 67th among 71 qualifying major league pitchers in that category.
So why is this news? Less than two weeks ago, following a loss at Atlanta in which he allowed seven runs in four innings, Pivetta was asked about the prospect of ending up in the bullpen and awkwardly seemed to ignore the reality.
“I don’t really understand what you’re saying,” Pivetta told reporters. “I’m just going to continue to do my job. I started for this team my whole entire career. I’m going to continue to do that. And by the end of the year, I’m going to continue to do that into next year.”
So what changed? Nothing, really – at least outside of Pivetta’s view. Two nights ago, Pivetta went out and allowed four runs in 5.1 innings – a 7.20 ERA that actually increased his number for the season – and blew a 4-0 lead in a game the Red Sox ended up winning. The Sox waited until after last night’s series and homestand finale to announce the pitcher’s demotion, though Pivetta was actually in the bullpen for last night’s game.
To his credit, Pivetta did the professional thing.
“I’m going to focus on helping the team achieve our goals,” Pivetta told the media. “I’m gonna go out there and do my job and throw up zeros and help this team win. I just don’t think I make this about me. I’ve just got to go out and focus. I’ve got to pitch better and I’ve got to go and start and do that right there. The better I do out of the bullpen, the more I can help the team win and move us towards our overall goal of winning the World Series. I think that’s what’s most important.”
While Pivetta has been quite durable during his Red Sox career as a starter, his overall performance has hardly distinguished him – at least in a positive manner. Since the start of the 2021 season, among 33 major league pitchers with at least 65 games started, Pivetta ranks 31st in ERA.
For what it’s worth, Houck, too, appears on borrowed time as a starter. Though he currently remains in the rotation, right-hander Garrett Whitlock seems destined to return to the Boston rotation after making a seconds rehabilitation start later this week. Whitlock is recovering from nerve irritation in his right (throwing) elbow.
Beyond Houck, the Sox are currently employing a rotation that features Chris Sale, James Paxton, Corey Kluber and youngster Brayan Bello, the last of whom is now 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA in four starts (all Red Sox wins) since returning from a demotion earlier this season.