ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Manager Alex Cora announced after Tuesday night’s contest against the Rays that Nick Pivetta would start Wednesday’s series finale, pushing James Paxton back to Friday’s series opener against the Orioles at Fenway Park.
On Wednesday, however, Cora acknowledged that Paxton will be pushed back to Tuesday at Fenway against the Yankees.
“We’re just giving him a breather,” Cora said before the series finale against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Paxton’s performance and stuff has faded in the second half of the season. He has posted a 6.98 ERA over his past nine starts compared to a 2.73 over his first 10.
“It’s not what I want but it’s probably what I need at this point in time to bounce back,” Paxton said. “I need to work on some mechanical stuff that has fallen off as I’ve gotten fatigued. I’m focusing on that and on my body and getting some energy back in the tank.”
While Paxton has made 19 starts this season and that number was 29 in 2019, in 2020 and 2021 combined, the lefthander took the mound for just a combined six outings. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2021, when he made just one start, and he missed all of 2022 as he rehabbed and suffered a shoulder injury.
Paxton hitting a wall this year felt inevitable. However, considering the way he pitched in the first half of the season, there was cause to second guess that notion.
Even more so, the Sox took care of Paxton early, giving him ample rest between starts, pushing him back when need be. Still, as the year progressed, Paxton has shown fatigue, and the lack of results have certainly followed.
“I think the offspeed stuff is missing,” Cora said. “The fastball is good. Location is OK. But he’s becoming a one-dimensional pitcher. The curveball has been off. The cutter-slider has been off. So when that happens at the big-league level, they’re going to be hunting the fastball, and with him, they know the fastball is up in the zone, and they’ve been able to catch up with it.”
As the Red Sox fight for their postseason life, having Paxton at the fulcrum of it was the expectation. He hopes that is still the case.
“The only time I’ve ever missed games before is because of injuries,” he said. “But this is also the first time I’ve come back after not pitching for a few years. I’m doing my best to grind it out and hoping that skipping this start will give me that little bit of extra rest I need to finish the season strong.”
Reyes, Kluber on assignment with Worcester
On Friday, infielder Pablo Reyes (left elbow inflammation) will begin a rehab assignment with Triple A Worcester and Corey Kluber (right shoulder inflammation) will pitch for the WooSox. Kluber threw a live batting practice this week. When and if Kluber returns to the parent club, it will be as a reliever … Alex Verdugo (right hamstring tightness) did some pregame work at Tropicana Field. “Hitting, right now, I don’t really feel it,” said Verdugo after the Sox’ loss Wednesday. “I feel it a little bit. But it’s not to the point where I feel like I can’t manage it. Throwing feels fine. It’s just running. Obviously playing right field, I have to be able to run. I got to be able to sprint in and sprint back and cut side to side and bend over in various ways. So I think that’s just the last step that I’m missing.” The hope is to have Verdugo in the lineup Friday for the series opener against the Orioles … The Sox’ pitching rotation for the weekend series: Tanner Houck, Chris Sale, and Brayan Bello. Baltimore’s starters are still to be determined.