The name was a constant.
The conversations usually ended up going down similar paths, with Chaim Bloom asking Matt Klentak about the pitcher. But when you have the stuff and the size and just enough major league cache Pivetta carried into 2020, the asks from the Red Sox Chief of Baseball Operations were going to almost always be politely discarded by his Philadelphia counterpart.
Then came that call in mid-August.
“Our interest in him last month was not a surprise to them,” Bloom told WEEI.com.
“He had been someone we had been keeping an eye on really throughout the time I spent here and pretty much any conversation or interaction we had with the Phillies he was on our radar. Obviously it took until this August for something to line up. But he was certainly someone who was on our radar prior to this season.”
It wasn’t difficult to decipher what cracked open a door Bloom hadn’t previously been able to budge. Not only did the Red Sox have what the Phillies needed — two late-inning relievers in Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree — but the Pivetta story in Philadelphia had reached an uncomfortable chapter, one which was getting worse not better.
The guy who so many believed represented a steal for the Phillies in 2015 when reeling him in for then-closer Jonathan Papelbon had hit a low point. Ten runs in 5 2/3 innings low. Six runs while getting just one out low. Bloom took notice.
:I think it's something you take note of,” said Bloom of those final Pivetta appearances for the Phillies. “For someone like this who profiles like Nick does, who has the size and the stuff that he has. Those types of guys when they're pitching really well usually don't get moved other than really true blockbuster deals. When that happens with someone you have interest you know it might put them in play in certain scenarios where they might not otherwise be in play and you pay closer attention to them. It's not necessarily where you think you can fix them. I don't think the game is that easy. It raises the question of if this guy could benefit from a change of scenery and could we be in position to be that if something lines up.
“If it's someone who is on your radar and you think highly of and you see them have some struggles it certainly makes you pay closer attention just to see if you can peel back the onion and figure out what might be leading to that.”
So, on Aug. 21 the Phillies finally relented: Pivetta and minor-league pitcher Connor Seabold for the two Red Sox relievers.
But as intriguing as the the player who will be starting for the Red Sox Tuesday night at Fenway Park might be, the process it took for him to land with his new team is truly noteworthy in itself.
Dana LeVangie — the Red Sox scout who had watched Pivetta pitch from across the diamond while serving as Boston’s pitching coach — got his marching orders when spring training rolled around: Keep an eye on this 27-year-old righty. The previous experiences witnessing the Phillies pitcher had been eye-opening, with Pivetta having given up one run over 13 innings in his two outings against the Sox. But there was also that 5.42 career ERA in 71 starts in the majors.
Something didn’t quite add up.
“I had a little bit of history with him, seeing him before. Liked everything about him. He's a monster. Four-plus pitches. Big-time (velocity). He had some success,” LeVangie told WEEi.com. “They asked me to watch him and see what was different about him.”
There was definitely something not quite right. And LeVangie could see it almost right away.
Pivetta had spent a chunk of the offseason working out with a group of pitchers which included some of the best arms in the game — Noah Syndergaard, Lucas Giolito and Jack Flaherty. After a promising 2018, he had taken a significant step back in 2019, finishing with a 5.38 ERA while serving as a starter in just 13 of his 30 outings.
But while good intentioned, the January sessions transformed Pivetta into a different kind of pitcher.
“He went into the offseason looking to make an adjustment trying to better himself on the mound. He worked out with a group of guys on the West Coast,” LeVangie said. “He kind of got in touch with Giolito and I think he tried to mimic what Giolito does with is arm path, his arm swing. He tried to shorten it up big-time. I applaud him. He was trying to make an adjustment and trying to get better.
“When I watched him I liked the velo, the overall stuff. But he was limited to a two-pitch mix at that time and what he was doing was losing deception. He lost the quality of his changeup. I felt like he wasn't creating enough deception in his stuff. I felt like the hitters could see the ball the entire time. He never got it behind him, never hid the ball. I think the more hitters see the ball the better outcome they will have. There were some things where I felt like he needed to make some changes to try and get back to to try and be that guy because he has a chance to, no question.”
And it wasn’t just one thing.
The more LeVangie saw the more he recognized how much Pivetta had changed. And he wasn’t the only one.
“I just felt like the hitters had a chance to potentially see the ball the entire time,” the Sox scout said. “They have the potential of seeing the grips because I felt like he wasn't hiding it as well as he had in the past. For him to be a guy on a championship team I felt like he needed get back to doing some of the things he had done in the past. And it wasn't the only thing he needed to make changes on. There were two other big things that I mentioned that were really important that not only I noticed but another scout of ours, Steve Langone, also saw. I'm not going to get into that. I'll allow other teams and other people to notice those things.
“Steve had advanced him prior to also watching the video leading up to the trade deadline. Before even contacting Steve, I watched the video, made my own thoughts and judgements. I mentioned to Steve if he had seen this and he said, 'Yup.' So there were definitely some things he needed to clean up to have some sustained success at the big league level, which we hope he can do.”
The reports on Pivetta kept coming.
While the general perception of the pitcher lined up with what Bloom’s previous reports had been during his time in Tampa, the days leading up to trade necessitated a more in-depth evaluation.
“This was interesting,” Bloom noted. “This one I really appreciated how much of a group effort it was with our folks. We had a lot of people working on this one, whether it was the folks in the front office, whether it was our analysts, whether it was our scouts we had. Our major league staff. (Pitching coach Dave Bush) Bushy spending some time on him. Dana LeVangie of course who has been a pitching coach here and is now on our scouting staff and is someone whose opinion we really value especially when it comes to pitchers, spent some time on him too. There was a lot of to peel back and a lot to dive in on. It was great to see everybody come together and contribute what they could from where they sat.”
Ultimately the combination of Philadelphia’s needs, Pivetta’s lot in life and the Red Sox’ belief the narrative could be changed led to the acquisition Bloom had long pursued.
And now, after almost exactly a month at McCoy Stadium with the rest of the Sox’ taxi squad, Pivetta starts his second chance.
“I think the biggest thing for me is really the fresh start, the clean slate that we're able to give him,” Bloom said. “I think sometimes through no fault of anybody when you have so many twists and turns in one place sometimes it helps to just be able to step back, take a deep breath and just turn the page. We've done everything we can to give him that opportunity.
"I think our job is to make sure we're there to help him in that effort and really make sure we're laying the groundwork to be the best version of himself. It's something you would want to do with any player but it was more critical in this case just because of how many roles he has been through, being up and down and experiencing a taste of success and then experiencing some failure, just letting him getting back to what he is most comfortable doing has been our emphasis.”