BALTIMORE — Nick Pivetta pitched only 15⅔ innings last season, appearing in three games for the Phillies and two for the Red Sox.
His only action otherwise came in occasional intrasquad scrimmages with minor leaguers. The Sox had no way of knowing for sure how much the righthander could give them this season or in what role.
It proved to be more than they could have expected. Pivetta’s scheduled start against the Orioles on Thursday would be his 30th of the season.
Only Nate Eovaldi (32) and Eduardo Rodriguez (30) have as many or more. Pivetta is third on the team with 149⅓ innings. He’s 9-7 with a 4.52 earned run average.
“You know what? He’s been really good for us,” manager Alex Cora said before Wednesday night’s 6-0 victory. “There’s more there, we believe. He keeps learning; he keeps growing.”
Pivetta has averaged 94.8 miles per hour with his fastball this season. He throws it 52 percent of time with his curveball and slider filling out his arsenal along with occasional changeups.
“His fastball plays. It’s a good fastball,” Cora said. “Not only the velocity but the carry and the way he uses it. When he’s on with it, he’s really tough to hit … The future is bright for him.”
Pivetta has faced the Orioles four times and allowed 10 runs over 21⅔ innings. He is 3-0.
Baltimore will pitch Alexander Wells, a rookie from Australia. He has a 7.61 ERA in 10 games. He started against the Sox on Sept. 19 at Fenway Park and allowed five runs over five innings.
The feeling was unlike anything Garrett Whitlock had experienced. The righthander compared what he felt in the seventh inning on Sept. 19, in a game against the Orioles, to a runner feeling a slight twinge in a hamstring.
Only in this case, he was a pitcher who felt discomfort in his right pectoral muscle.
Mindful of the stage of the season and his sense of responsibility to his team, Whitlock tried to pitch through it. But his velocity plummeted, convincing third baseman Rafael Devers to alert the training staff. Whitlock was removed from the game for an injury that has him on the injured list.
“Coming out, I felt like I’d let the team down a little bit,” Whitlock said Wednesday. “[Eovaldi] told me, ‘Hey, if you’re in there, when you’re not pitching up to your standards because you’re not feeling good, you’re not helping the team anyways.’ ”
The 25-year-old’s absence has been glaring at times. Whitlock is 8-4 with a pair of saves and a 1.99 ERA in 72⅓ innings. In recent days, when the Sox blew leads on back-to-back days in the eighth inning against the Yankees, it was easy to imagine how Whitlock’s availability could have changed things.
“Any time you can’t help the team win, you feel bad,” said Whitlock. “I’m just trying to take my work each day seriously and get back as quick as I can so that I can help the team.”
Though Whitlock is eligible to be activated from the injured list on Thursday, he won’t be. The righthander threw on flat ground at Camden Yards for the second time in as many days on Wednesday. Cora said that Whitlock will throw a bullpen session on Friday, at which point the team will decide what comes next.
Whitlock said that he feels “encouraged” by his recovery, though he’s trying to focus on each step rather than guessing when he’ll be ready to return to games.
“The way I liked to prepare, beforehand, I was imagining, all right, this is the Wild Card Game. When I go out to pitch, this is a Wild Card Game. I’ve got to make sure I throw up a zero,” said Whitlock. “That way, I can get prepared if I’m in that situation.”
Quality control coach Ramón Vázquez coached first base in place of Tom Goodwin on Tuesday and will handle the job for the remainder of the season.
Goodwin is not vaccinated against COVID-19 and MLB is requiring non-playing personnel to be vaccinated as a condition of being allowed on the field and other restricted spaces during the postseason.
“We’ve got to prepare for the postseason if we get there,” Cora said.
Cora said no other staff members are affected.
“It’s always been a choice. If a person makes that choice, then we all live with that,” Goodwin told the Globe earlier this month. “It’s not a cult that we’re involved with. This is what we feel is best for our bodies and our families. We’re going to take the consequences that come with that.”
Rodriguez is scheduled to start Friday night against the Nationals. Chris Sale would be available on Sunday if Game 162 is important.
Saturday’s starter is to be determined. Cora indicated that Tanner Houck was a possibility. He hasn’t started since Sept. 15 but should be able to go four innings.
The Nationals have rookies Josh Rogers and Josiah Gray scheduled for Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Rogers is 2-1 with a 2.73 ERA in five starts. The former Yankees draft pick was one of three prospects traded to the Orioles for Zack Britton in 2018.
The Orioles released Rogers on June 1. The Nationals signed him three days later.
Gray, 23, is 2-2 with a 5.72 ERA in 11 starts for Washington. He was one of the three prospects traded for Max Scherzer and Trea Turner on July 30.
Patrick Corbin was scheduled to start Sunday. But the Nationals decided to shut him down because of a blister. He is 9-16 with a 5.82 ERA but had a 3.82 ERA in five starts this month.
Washington has not named a replacement for Corbin.
Taylor not close
Josh Taylor, the team’s primary lefthanded reliever, is not on the trip. He stayed in Boston getting treatment on his sore back. Taylor has been on the injured list since Sept. 23 and is unlikely to return in the regular season … Utility player Danny Santana and righthanded reliever Phillips Valdez started rehab assignments with Triple A Worcester, which ends its season on Sunday. Both are on the COVID-19 injured list. It’s unlikely either will return to the major league roster, but the Sox want them ready should a need arise … The Sox are 13-5 against the Orioles with a game remaining, 7-2 at Camden Yards … Matt Barnes made his 383rd career appearance when he pitched the ninth inning. That tied him with Roger Clemens for sixth in team history, one behind Derek Lowe.
Alex Speier of the Globe staff contributed to this report.