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Peter Abraham | On Baseball

Nick Pivetta showed again he’s earned a place on the Red Sox roster

Fill-in starter Nick Pivetta, working on three days’ rest, gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks in 4 and two-thirds innings.Mike Ehrmann/Getty

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox clubhouse was quiet as a wake on Wednesday night.

The televisions were off and players spoke in whispers if they spoke at all. Most sat at their lockers and stared at their phones. What noise there was came from equipment bags being zipped up in preparation for the return flight to Boston.

A 3-1 loss against the Tampa Bay Rays wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. The Sox had only five hits and struck out 17 times. They were hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position, striking out five times and grounding out twice.

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The Sox will open a seven-game homestand on Friday night closer to last place in the division than a playoff spot.

Watching them now is less about the score and more about making a list in your head of who belongs on the team next season. Some are obvious, others less so.

On Wednesday, Nick Pivetta stood up and made his case again.

Pitching on three days’ rest after going three innings for a save in Kansas City on Saturday, Pivetta worked into the fifth inning, throwing 85 pitches, and keeping the Sox in the game by allowing only three runs.

“I thought Nick was outstanding,” Alex Cora said.

The Sox didn’t have many relievers available after an 11-inning loss on Tuesday. They needed every out they could get from Pivetta.

“Thank you, bro,’” Cora said when he went to the mound to get Pivetta in the fifth inning.

Said Pivetta: “It’s always about the team at the end of the day and of course I appreciate [what Cora said]. I do this for these guys and this organization.”

Pivetta opened the season in the rotation and had a 6.30 ERA in eight starts before being demoted to the bullpen. He has a 3.62 ERA in 26 appearances since.

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He has started three times, worked as a “bulk guy” behind an opener four times and had assorted late-inning assignments.

In an age where most managers are quick to lock their pitchers into specific roles, Pivetta has simply been a pitcher. Since leaving the rotation he has thrown as many as 104 pitches in a game and as few as four.

In the mystical land of sustained contention we’ve heard so much about in recent years, Pivetta has a place on the roster. It’s probably not as a starter but there’s a role for him and a valuable one.

The 30-year-old righthander has an edge and good teams need a few of those guys. Pivetta was angry about his demotion. But he used that emotion in the right way.

“He’s found something. He’s a lot different than last year,” Cora said.

Specifically, that’s a slider he throws at two speeds. That gives him better side-to-side options to complement the up-and-down action of his fastball and changeup.

“A solid fourth pitch has helped me out,” Pivetta said, referring to the slower “sweeper” slider.

Pivetta also has embraced the idea of always being ready to take the ball.

“I feel like I’ve been able to prepare my body really well for this and adjust. I’m excited to pitch, always,” he said.

Chris Martin, whose World Series ring with the 2021 Braves and lengthy career as a high-leverage reliever commands respect, talked to Pivetta in June about the need to be more aggressive.

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“He’s attacking the strike zone. That’s what we’re trying to get to,” Martin said. “He’s always had really good stuff but command in the strike zone is key.”

That’s not as simple as it sounds. Starters approach the game differently than relievers. The day-to-day preparation is different, too.

“I think I’ve learned a lot from the adjustments that I’ve had to make and certain experiences,” Pivetta said. “Whatever I can do to help this team win is the most important thing.”

As Pivetta grows as a pitcher, taking questions from reporters remains a work in progress. He keeps his answers short and simple and probably would welcome seeing us banished to the wilds of his native Canada.

That’s fine. The coaches and players often mention what a good teammate he is and that’s what counts.

When bench coach Ramón Vázquez managed the team to a victory against the Yankees last month after Cora was ejected, it was Pivetta who quickly organized a postgame celebration.

As the Sox figure out who their keepers are, Pivetta has carved out his place on and off the field. He showed that again Wednesday.


Peter Abraham can be reached at peter.abraham@globe.com. Follow him @PeteAbe.