Nick Pivetta is the odd man out in the Red Sox rotation.
While the Red Sox employed a six-man rotation over the six-game homestand that concluded on Wednesday, the team will use a more traditional five-man group for the coming road trip against the Padres, Angels, and Diamondbacks. With that deployment, the team elected to shift Pivetta into a multi-inning bullpen role while leaving James Paxton (0-0, 3.60 ERA), Chris Sale (3-2, 5.40), Corey Kluber (2-5, 6.41), Tanner Houck (3-3, 5.48), and Brayan Bello (3-1, 4.45 after Wednesday’s 12-3 victory) as starters.
The move was announced after the game, which Pivetta spent all of sitting in the bullpen. He is 3-3 with a 6.30 ERA over 40 innings in eight starts. His ERA is tied for 105th out of 118 starters who have thrown at least 30 innings.
“I just got moved to the bullpen, so that’s where I belong and that’s where I’m hanging out,” said Pivetta. “I’m going to focus on helping the team achieve our goals. I’m gonna go out there and do my job and throw up zeros and help this team win.
“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,” he added. “I think that’s what’s most important.”
Pivetta has been a source of rotation stability for the Sox as a result of his durability. His 71 starts since the start of the 2021 season are easily the most by a Sox pitcher during that time. The team also believes his pitch mix can be that of a starter. But his effectiveness has plummeted this year. His last six starts, he allowed 27 runs in 30 innings for an 8.10 ERA, with opponents hitting .303/.386/.574.
The move to the bullpen is not the first for Pivetta. Halfway through the 2019 season, the Phillies bumped him into a relief role after he forged a 5.74 ERA through 13 starts. In 17 relief appearanes that year, Pivetta had a 4.38 ERA with a 27 percent strikeout rate and 12 percent walk rate.
He opened the 2020 campaign back in the Phillies bullpen, but struggled, was optioned to the alternate site, and eventually was traded to the Red Sox in the COVID-compressed season. The Sox committed to giving Pivetta a chance to re-establish himself as a starter, and he performed at the level of a solid back-of-the-rotation option, going 19-20 with a 4.54 ERA in 2021-22.
Pivetta also added in a few spectacular moments out of the bullpen in 2021, striking out Juan Soto for the final out of Game 162 to punch the team’s ticket to the playoffs and later logging four scoreless extra innings to set up a walkoff victory for the Sox in Game 3 of the Division Series against Tampa Bay.
Those assignments were responses to extraordinary season-on-the-line circumstances. This time, it comes as a response to early season performance that left the Sox convinced that he was no longer one of their best five options.
Alex Speier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.