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Eovaldi, Hembree aim to bolster 'pen in return

July 3, 2019

TORONTO -- Help is on the way for the Red Sox's bullpen, which could come as early as Thursday in the form of Heath Hembree and, soon after the All-Star break, Nathan Eovaldi. Eovaldi threw another bullpen session on Wednesday afternoon in Toronto and was encouraged by how he felt

TORONTO -- Help is on the way for the Red Sox's bullpen, which could come as early as Thursday in the form of Heath Hembree and, soon after the All-Star break, Nathan Eovaldi.

Eovaldi threw another bullpen session on Wednesday afternoon in Toronto and was encouraged by how he felt afterwards. He is scheduled to throw again on Saturday, after which the Red Sox should have a clearer understanding of how quickly he can return to help the bullpen, a new idea born out of the urgency of Boston's season.

After signing as a starter this past offseason, Eovaldi’s priorities changed recently as he worked his way back from injury. He underwent arthroscopic surgery for loose bodies in his right elbow on April 23, and right biceps tendinitis prolonged his recovery. Time is a factor with the season’s midway point in the rearview mirror, and Eovaldi is focused on his team first.

“I told AC [Red Sox manager Alex Cora] I want to come back and help out as soon as possible,” Eovaldi said. “If I were to come back into the starting rotation, it would take at least another month to build up that way. Any way can help out, I want to be able to do so.”

This echoes what both Cora and general manager Dave Dombrowski said prior to Tuesday’s game. The 29-year-old Eovaldi last pitched on April 17. He’ll be pushing three months between game action by the time the All-Star break wraps up, which has been a challenging process for him after the high of his 2018 World Series performance.

“It’s been really frustrating. Having the surgery, working my way back from that and then the biceps tendinitis,” Eovaldi said. “Just having to kind of wait until it all goes away. Now I feel really good and hopefully it won’t be too long.”

Hembree is also feeling healthy after making one rehab outing with Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday, where he pitched a clean inning with two strikeouts on 16 pitches. Over his last 20 appearances before hitting the injured list with a right elbow strain, Hembree posted a 0.52 ERA with 25 strikeouts over 17 1/3 innings.

His return should provide a welcome boost to Boston’s bullpen, whether that comes in Toronto on Thursday or Detroit on Friday.

“I’d like to think so. We’re still going to figure out today where we’re at and see what the next step is,” Hembree said.

With no starter announced yet for Thursday’s finale in Toronto, it’s possible that the Red Sox could give Hector Velazquez the nod and rely on multiple bullpen arms behind him.