If the name Nick Pivetta sounded familiar when the Red Sox acquired him from the Phillies last week in a deal for closer Brandon Workman, perhaps it's because two of the best starts of his career came against Boston.
In 2017, he tossed seven shutout innings to outduel Chris Sale in Philly's 1-0 victory. A year later, he allowed just one run in six innings in a 2-1 loss to Rick Porcello.
In both cases, Pivetta highlighted the arsenal that would one day make him a trade target, pairing a mid-90s fastball with a sharp curveball. He has fallen on particularly rough times since, pitching his way out of the Phillies rotation less than a month into the 2019 season, and putting up an ERA of nearly 16.00 in three relief appearances this year before the trade, but he's looking forward to a new start.
"It's great to be with the Boston organization," he said. "They've made it really prevalent that they value me as a starting pitcher. That's what I believe I am. Obviously I wasn't pitching well enough out of the bullpen in Philly to put myself in that opportunity to be a starter and they chose to go with some other arms over me. So, being traded and having that opportunity is really important for me. I'm looking very much forward to that."
While some rival evaluators view Pivetta as a better fit in the bullpen, where his inconsistent command can be mitigated, he showed enough as a starter in 2018 that the Red Sox will give him every opportunity to seize that role.
He only went 7-14 with a 4.77 ERA, but his underlying numbers suggested a pitcher who could handle the rigors of the rotation. He struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings, good for fifth among NL starters, en route to a career-high 188 Ks in 164 innings. He also posted a 3.79 FIP that pointed towards some bad luck on balls in play.
"I want to get back to my 2018 self – obviously have better numbers than 2018 -- but I think that's a good base that I can really build on these next three years, getting to 200 innings, 200 strikeouts, being that reliable starter that goes every single day, on that fifth day, and throws up seven to nine innings as best as I possibly can and gives it my best effort every single time," Pivetta said.
The last two seasons haven't been nearly as kind. Pivetta posted a 5.38 ERA last year while his strikeouts fell to 89 in 93.2 innings and his walk rate increased from 2.8/9 to 3.7. In his limited appearances this year, he allowed three home runs in 5.2 innings.
"It definitely hasn't gone the way I've wanted it to, but I've been given an opportunity here for a fresh new beginning," Pivetta said." So it's just taking what I've learned from my past experiences, moving forward, and developing into the pitcher that I know that I can be and that the Boston Red Sox believe that I can be. There's a lot of moves that happened, especially last year in 2019, that were out of my control.
"I was feeling really good in spring training and then the whole pandemic happened, and then it was a quick spring training 2.0. I didn't pitch, they told me I didn't pitch good enough and that Vince Velasquez had won that opportunity. I didn't pitch to my best out of the bullpen. Just getting a fresh start moving forward is what I'm looking forward to, developing relationships with a lot of guys in Boston and building back up."