Tomase: How Lucas Giolito inspired Sox RHP even before no-no

Phillies RHP Nick Pivetta
USA TODAY Sports photo

Lucas Giolito threw baseball's first no-hitter of 2020 on Tuesday night, and it undoubtedly caught the attention of his minor league roommate — newly acquired Red Sox right-hander Nick Pivetta.

Pivetta and Giolito not only share an agent, they once shared a farm system as Nationals draftees, and they shared a workout space this winter as Pivetta sought to remake himself following a disappointing 2019.

Giolito knows a little bit about reinvention, since he might have been the worst starting pitcher in baseball only two years ago, when he went 10-13 with a 6.13 ERA in 32 starts, allowing the most runs (118) and walks (90) in the American League.

A former first-round pick with tons of potential, Giolito put it together in 2019 by winning 14 games, making his first All-Star team, and finishing sixth in the AL Cy Young voting. But the capper to his turnaround came on Tuesday, when the White Sox right-hander no-hit the Pirates in a 4-0 victory.

"I think that getting my ass kicked over and over again, kind of looking at my year (in 2018), I was pretty much bottom of the league when it came to every stat," Giolito told reporters, including The Athletic. "It was that I kind of had to get my ass kicked, kind of had to learn from failure and go and make the changes I needed to make to be able to realize my true potential."

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So what does this have to do with Pivetta? The right-hander with loads of potential was acquired from the Phillies on Friday along with minor-league right-hander Connor Seabold for closer Brandon Workman and setup man Heath Hembree.

He is no stranger to getting his ass kicked. After opening eyes by striking out over 10 batters per nine innings in 2018 and emerging as a breakout candidate, Pivetta regressed horribly in 2019, pitching himself right back to the minors by the end of April and finishing with a 5.38 ERA. He was even worse in three appearances this season, posting a 15.88 ERA before the Red Sox came calling.

That's not at all where Pivetta expected to be after spending the winter working out in Los Angeles not only with Giolito, but Braves starter Max Fried, Cardinals ace Jack Flaherty, Mets All-Star Noah Syndergaard, and nearly a dozen others at Kobe Bryant's Mamba Sports Academy, as detailed in this outstanding Philadelphia Inquirer piece by Scott Lauber.

Pivetta and Giolito were drafted a year apart by the Nationals and were minor league roommates until Washington shipped Pivetta to the Phillies for Jonathan Papelbon in 2015. Giolito departed a year later in a widely panned deal for outfielder Adam Eaton.

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Pivetta watched Giolito remake himself from the ground up, with stunning results. He refined his changeup and overhauled his offseason workout regimen to improve his mechanics, shortening his delivery and making it more repeatable.

"Seeing Lucas make the changes that he did, that's the direction that I want to go in," Pivetta told the Inquirer. "Knowing the work that he's put in, that's where I want to see myself go."

Pivetta isn't Giolito, but the Red Sox hope they can unlock his potential, a challenge that ultimately stymied and frustrated the Phillies. At least Pivetta knows where to look for inspiration.