What a difference a few months can make.
Nathan Eovaldi, fresh off a stellar playoff run, entered the 2019 season as a key cog in the Boston Red Sox’s rotation. The right-hander only made four starts before undergoing a procedure on his elbow, which sidelined him for the remainder of the first half of the campaign.
Eovaldi returned to the Red Sox on Monday with a new role: reliever. As struggles in the back end of Boston’s bullpen continue to mount, Eovaldi has been called upon as somewhat of a saving grace. The 29-year-old’s return to the mound was far from a high leverage-situation, however, as he entered in the eighth inning with the Red Sox leading the Tampa Bay Rays 8-0 at Tropicana Field. Eovaldi failed to complete the inning, allowing three runs on five hits with two strikeouts over 2/3 of a frame in which he tossed 24 pitches.
Despite the undesirable pitching line, Eovaldi seems encouraged by his first outing since April 17.
“It felt really good to be back out there, and just competing with all the guys,” Eovaldi said after Boston’s 9-4 win, per MLB.com’s Ian Browne. “I felt fine out there. I just have to do a better job locating my secondary pitches. Everything was mostly middle, they were trying to get hits and were able to do so.”
Red Sox fans probably shouldn’t get too caught up in Eovaldi’s performance. As he touched on, the majority of his pitches were left right over the plate, which Boston likely was looking for given its comfortable lead. Had it been an actual save situation, Eovaldi’s approach surely would have been different. The flamethrower also had plenty of life on his fastball, as he topped out at 99 mph and averaged 97.8 mph on his heater over the course of the brief outing, per Brown.
Manager Alex Cora aptly described Eovaldi’s outing as the veteran righty “getting his feet wet” as a reliever. The true test will be when the Red Sox turn to Eovaldi for three crucial outs in the ninth inning.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images