With James Paxton set to return and Garrett Whitlock potentially not far behind, the Red Sox have some decisions to make over who will comprise the starting rotation going forward.
Knowing his spot could be on the line, Nick Pivetta didn’t exactly help his case.
The Red Sox veteran got crushed Tuesday night, allowing seven runs over four innings in an ugly 9-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves. Pivetta allowed four runs in the bottom of the first, including a towering two-run shot by Braves slugger Matt Olson right out of the chute, and allowed 12 baserunners in total after giving up eight hits, three walks and hitting a batter.
“I didn’t have my best day, I wasn’t executing pitches early, got behind a lot of hitters, they’re a good hitting club,” Pivetta said. “Just one of those days.”
Though Alex Cora confirmed Pivetta will make his next start against Seattle on Tuesday, the underwhelming performance will intensify speculation he could soon move to the bullpen.
While Tuesday’s outing may have been his worst of the season, it hasn’t exactly been an outlier.
Pivetta has now allowed three or more runs in each of his last five starts, and overall his ERA stands at 6.23 on the season over 34.2 innings.
Going back even further, Pivetta also posted a 6.04 ERA over the second half of last season. His Statcast metrics aren’t impressive either, entering Tuesday he ranked bottom 10% in MLB in average exit velocity (6th percentile), hard hit percentage (4th percentile), expected slugging percentage (8th percentile) and barrel percentage (1st percentile).
Translation: Pivetta’s getting hit harder than just about any other pitcher in baseball.
To be fair, the Red Sox rotation’s struggles go far beyond one pitcher. Boston’s starters have collectively posted a 6.10 ERA, second worst in baseball behind only the horrific Oakland Athletics, so while there’s no guarantee Paxton will be an improvement, the Red Sox have good reason to give him a shot.
Speaking to reporters prior to the game, Cora said the ultimate makeup of the rotation going forward will be an organizational decision.
“It’s not only my decision, it’s the organization’s decision on what we’re going to do. Putting everything on balance and seeing what benefits us now and in the future. So we’ll all sit down and talk about it,” Cora said, per audio posted by WEEI’s Rob Bradford.
“There are going to be people that are going to be thrilled to be in the rotation, others are going to be upset, but at the same time they’ve got a job to do,” he continued. “We’ve still got to get people out and you still have to contribute for us if we’re going to get where we want to go.”
Brayan Bello will get the start in Wednesday’s finale against the Braves, and following the Thursday off-day Paxton will make his long-awaited debut on Friday against the St. Louis Cardinals. He’ll be followed by Chris Sale on Saturday and Corey Kluber on Sunday, and then Tanner Houck, Pivetta and Bello will start the first three games of next week’s Seattle series, Cora said.
How the club proceeds from there remains to be seen, but at some point the Red Sox are going to have to decide who their best five starters are and stick with them. It’s a safe bet the next turn through the rotation will play a big role in who ultimately makes the cut.
Yoshida’s streak ends
With his 0 for 5 performance, Masataka Yoshida’s MLB-best hit streak officially came to an end at 16 games. The reigning American League Player of the Week popped out in the first, struck out in the third and grounded out his last three times up in the fifth, eighth and ninth innings, the last of which recorded the final out of the game.
Though it wasn’t a particularly good day for anyone on the Red Sox, Justin Turner did have one of his better games since joining the team. The veteran designated hitter went 2 for 3 with a solo home run, a sacrifice fly and a double, the 300th of his career. Alex Verdugo also went 3 for 5 with a double, Triston Casas drew two walks and Ryan Brasier pitched a scoreless eighth inning.
Prior to the game Cora also provided a positive update on Whitlock, telling reporters that the righty threw a bullpen on Monday and is feeling good. There is still no timetable for his potential return and Cora said they’re taking it slow to see how he progresses in the coming days.