Pivetta, who pitched at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs in 2012 and 2013, is 13-8 this season for the Hagerstown Suns, the Class A affiliate of the Washington Nationals.
“It’s been awesome,” Pivetta said. “I feel like I’ve had a really good first year in the minor leagues. I’ve had some ups and downs but I’m pretty happy with it so far.”
Before coming to America, the 6-foot-5 Pivetta pitched for Canada Cup’s Team British Columbia and the Canadian (Under-17) Junior National Team.
New Mexico Junior College head coach Josh Simpson discovered him on the recommendation of a scout and offered Pivetta a scholarship without ever seeing him pitch in person.
Likewise, Pivetta committed blindly to NMJC.
“Josh called me up and offered me a full ride, he talked to a couple of my coaches in Canada and they put in a good word and he just kind of took a shot on me,” Pivetta said. “It all happened in about a week. I hadn’t really been talking to anybody else and they called me out of the blue, which was really nice.
“I just went right down. I didn’t really know what I walking in to but once I saw the baseball field I was pretty happy. And once I started to get around Hobbs, there’s great people and it’s a great school. That was two of the best years of my life, it was a great experience.”
In his first season in Hobbs, Pivetta went 4-1 with a 4.83 ERA in 54 innings but he gained some weight in the offseason before his sophomore year and was fully recovered from a ulnar collateral ligment injury that cost him all of his senior year of high school.
“It took a little while for the velocity to develop,” Simpson said. “When Nick came back before his sophomore year, we had a new pitching coach, Jake McCarter, who introduced a bunch of throwing drills and routines and velocity stuff. His velocity went, early in the fall, from 90 to 92 then up to 95, and he hit 97 on Halloween night.”
As sophomore in 2013, Pivetta took advantage of that velocity increase and went 9-2 with a 3.36 ERA, posted a .235 batting average against and pitched six complete games in 13 starts.
“He was in our rotation as a freshman and he learned how to pitch at 88 to 90,” Simpson said. “So when his velocity jumped to 95 miles per hour he already had command of three pitches he could throw for strikes and he dominated.”
Because of those numbers Pivetta was ranked as the third best junior college prospect by Perfect Game USA and was offered a scholarship by University of New Mexico head coach Ray Birmingham.
But his breakout year also gained the attention of the Nationals, who selected Pivetta in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. Pivetta spurned the Lobos and signed with Washington for $364,300.
“I had a scholarship to go (to UNM) but I was fortunate enough to get drafted and go in a good round and a good spot so I decided to pursue professional baseball,” Pivetta said.
Pivetta made his professional debut July 13, 2013, with the Gulf Coast League Nationals and ended his first season with Auburn of the short-season New York-Penn League. He pitched a total of nine games and went 1-1 with a 2.91 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 34 innings.
“The hitters are a lot better than what I’ve seen in junior college,” Pivetta said. “They really capitalize on every mistake that you make. I really had to work on my fastball command and my two off-speed pitches.”
This season with Hagerstown, Pivetta’s 13 wins were tied for fourth most throughout all levels of the minor leagues and ranked third in the South Atlantic league.
“He’s been wonderful,” Hagerstown pitching coach Sam Narron said. “I had him last year when he was drafted and all players come in to that first season of professional baseball inevitably get tired and Nick had run out of gas. But to see the progression he’s made from the short time I had him last year to his first full season, to see him pitch as well as he’s had to sustain what he’s done throughout the whole season, it’s fun to watch.”
This year, Pivetta had an ERA of 4.22 and 98 strikeouts in 1321/3 innings for the playoff-bound Suns but while his numbers were down, he made an impression on Narron.
“He’s done some good work and made some really good adjustments with his delivery and mechanics and just understanding how to pitch,” Narron said. “His stuff is so good and coming from junior college where he could get by on stuff, but once you get into professional baseball, you’ve got to pitch. And he’s done a good job of understanding that.”
And if he continues work and improve the way Narron thinks he will, the future could be very bright for Pivetta
“He’s a big leaguer,” Narron said. “You look at his size, physique, his stuff, he’s still really young and just learning the art of pitching. To come as far as he has in just one year, he’s got a very good chance to play a long time in the big leagues.”