LOS ANGELES -- Nathan Eovaldi isn't just bringing the heat for the Red Sox. He also is creating a lot of intrigue as the World Series shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 tonight.Call the flame-throwing right-hander the Swiss Army knife of Boston's pitching staff.Dominant starter one day, and electric
LOS ANGELES -- Nathan Eovaldi isn't just bringing the heat for the Red Sox. He also is creating a lot of intrigue as the World Series shifts to Los Angeles for Game 3 tonight.
Call the flame-throwing right-hander the Swiss Army knife of Boston's pitching staff.
Dominant starter one day, and electric setup man the next. It's hard to know which role Red Sox manager Alex Cora will use him in on a given day.
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Eovaldi stifled the Dodgers with a shutdown eighth inning in Game 1 (16 pitches) of the Fall Classic. Then, in Game 2, he was even more impressive in the eighth inning, mowing down Los Angeles on 13 pitches. All eight fastballs Eovaldi threw in Game 2 were 99 mph or greater. He topped out at 100.3.
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In the American League Division Series and the AL Championship Series, Eovaldi gave the Red Sox dominant performances as a starter in Game 3. Rick Porcello gets Game 3 this time because of Eovaldi's usage in the 'pen.
So Cora has a couple of options that he was sure to be contemplating during Thursday's off-day.
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Does he again go to Eovaldi in the bullpen for the seventh or eighth inning of Game 3?
Or does Eovaldi rest in Game 3, and then move him back to the rotation for Game 4?
"You never know," Cora said. "Like I've been saying all along, we're all in every day. If we feel there's a chance to close the door with them, we'll use him. The way it's mapped out, it's Rick in Game 3 and maybe Nate Game 4. But Nate might come in in the eighth again. If we have a chance to be up 3-0 with him on the mound and Craig [Kimbrel], we'll do it. And then we'll figure out Game 4."
So what are Cora's options for Game 4 if not Eovaldi?
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Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez, who was 12-4 with a 3.79 ERA in 23 starts during the regular season, would seem to be the top alternative, but his last start was Sept 20. He has pitched five times as a reliever in the postseason but is yet to throw more than 31 pitches. If Rodriguez does start, it would likely be more of an "opener" situation.
Chris Sale going on three days' rest in Game 4 seems like a highly unlikely possibility, given his shoulder woes in the second half of the regular season and then his stomach ailment in the ALCS. But Cora has been full of surprises in this postseason, and he was rewarded for his decision to go with David Price on three days' rest in Game 5 of the ALCS.
The other thing Cora could do is go with a full-on bullpen game, though that could be risky with Game 5 (if necessary) a day later.
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Perhaps because his team leads this World Series, 2-0, Cora is enjoying the day-to-day drama of figuring out who will pitch when.
"That's the beauty of the playoffs," Cora said. "It's actually fun because you map out everything over 162 games and you give guys rest and take care of guys, but now it's like pedal to the metal. And whatever happens that day, we'll take it. [Eovaldi's] been amazing for us."
Which also leaves Dodgers manager Dave Roberts wondering where Cora will go next with Eovaldi.
"It's going to be interesting how he's used the rest of the Series," Roberts said. "But as far as a guy that's got such a big arm and can pitch in a setup role and get the ball to Kimbrel, obviously that's big, because any type of momentum that you want to gain, with potentially a lesser arm as far as stuff, using Eovaldi obviously makes our task a little bit tougher."
Though he has had arm problems in the past -- including two Tommy John surgeries -- Eovaldi is also "all in" with the way the Red Sox are using him this October.
"Nate's in before you ask him regardless," Boston pitching coach Dana LeVangie said. "He wants to pitch. He knows where we're at right now, he knows that this is something special we're chasing. Nate wants to pitch and be a part of this championship team."
With the Red Sox two wins away from reaching their ultimate goal, Eovaldi's impact has been substantial. In his five postseason appearances, he is 2-0 as a starter with three holds as a reliever and has a 1.65 ERA.
"We've got two more wins," Eovaldi said. "I'm ready to do whatever it takes to get those two wins, and I feel like everyone is feeling the same way. If I'm starting that day, I'm starting that day. If I'm not, I stay locked in in the bullpen."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.