Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta will not pitch for Canada in the World Baseball Classic, manager Alex Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) in Fort Myers, Fla. on Wednesday.
Pivetta was named to Team Canada’s final roster for the upcoming tournament but elected to pull out after consulting with Red Sox officials in recent days. The right-hander had COVID-19 earlier this month, which interrupted his throwing program, and is still dealing with aftereffects from the virus.
“His recovery has been slow,” Cora said. “He has been able to do stuff but not at the pace he was before.”
Pivetta is still expected to be ready for the start of the 2023 season in late March. Because he was slated to pitch in the WBC, the 30-year-old had already started to ramp up earlier than usual over the winter and was ahead of other Red Sox pitchers coming into the spring before getting sick.
“He was supposed to pitch two or three innings over the weekend,” said Cora. “Now, he’ll be here the whole time. We’ll see how it goes in the upcoming days but he should be fine.”
A native of Victoria, Pivetta first pitched in the WBC back in 2017, right before he made his major-league debut for the Phillies. The righty is understandably disappointed that he will not get the opportunity to suit up for his country this time around.
“It’s a really difficult decision,” Pivetta said. “I got the opportunity to play for Team Canada from a very young age. And then I got to play for them in the WBC. That was really important for me. Unfortunately, I haven’t been recovering the way I like to.
“The team and I came to an (agreement) and an understanding that I have to focus here and what I need to do here for this team right now,” he added. “It’s unfortunate. I take great pride in playing for that team and playing for that country. Best of luck to those guys.”
After throwing a bullpen session on Monday and not recovering as quickly as he would have liked to, Pivetta and the Red Sox came to an agreement that it would be for the best if he did not pitch in the WBC. He then called Team Canada manager Ernie Whitt to inform him of his decision.
Pivetta has now had COVID three times, and he described this most-recent bout as being “way worse” than the previous two.
“I had the flu pretty bad. I had a lot of body aches,” said Pivetta. “And just the science behind having COVID, what’s gone on, inflammation rates, guys getting injured after getting COVID, I think all of those things are factors that I have to take into (account) for me and for the team, too.”
Pivetta is one of seven starters competing for five rotation spots in camp alongside Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Brayan Bello, Garrett Whitlock, James Paxton, and Tanner Houck. He is coming off a 2022 campaign in which he led the club in both games started (33) and innings pitched (179 2/3) while posting a 4.56 ERA and 4.42 FIP with 175 strikeouts to 73 walks.
“It’s all good,” Pivetta said. “I’m focused on what I need to do for 2023 with the team, that’s where I can kind of push it and that’s where I kind of put my focus and just forget about everything else.”
Since Pivetta is off Canada’s roster, the Red Sox now have 12 players who are expected to participate in the WBC, including Rafael Devers (Dominican Republic), Masataka Yoshida (Japan), Enrique Hernandez (Puerto Rico), Richard Bleier (Israel), and Jarren Duran and Alex Verdugo (Mexico).
Closer Kenley Jansen is in Team Netherlands’ designated player pool, meaning he could join them if they advance to the semifinal in Miami next month. Infielder Yu Chang, who signed a one-year deal with Boston last week, is also on Team Chinese Taipei’s roster.
(Picture of Nick Pivetta: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)