The Red Sox are moving right-hander Nick Pivetta into a multi-inning relief role, manager Alex Cora informed reporters after tonight’s win over the Mariners (relayed by Alex Speier of the Boston Globe). It’ll be his first bullpen work since Boston acquired him from the Phillies during the abbreviated 2020 campaign.
Pivetta has been a durable but somewhat frustrating starter over his two and a half seasons in Boston. He topped 30 starts and 150 innings in both 2021-22, leading the team with 179 2/3 frames last year. He’s flashed decent swing-and-miss stuff but been prone to a few too many walks and plenty of hard contact. His ERA sat just north of 4.50 in both seasons.
It has been more of the same for the 30-year-old to this point in 2023. Pivetta has taken all eight turns through the rotation and logged 40 innings of 6.30 ERA ball. While his 23% strikeout rate and 10.7% swinging strike percentage are respectable, he has issued free passes at an elevated 10.4% clip. Pivetta has surrendered nine home runs and given up hard contact on a massive 51.7% of batted balls this season. He’s perhaps fortunate to have surrendered “only” a .309 batting average on balls in play in light of that contact quality.
Pivetta hasn’t traditionally dealt with notable platoon splits throughout his career. Left-handed hitters have put together a .268/.361/.592 batting line in 84 trips to the plate this season. The Red Sox aren’t planning to use him in a strict matchup capacity, although the relief role could afford Cora a little more flexibility in deploying him against a few more right-handed batters.
The organization obviously hopes Pivetta’s high-octane arsenal can translate more effectively in shorter bursts. He has averaged 93.8 MPH on his fastball out of the rotation. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that ticked up a bit in briefer stints that allow Pivetta to max out his effort, so it’s not hard to envision him finding success in a relief capacity.
More to come.