ST. PETERSBURG -- For probably every outing he makes for the rest of the season, Nathan Eovaldi will be judged almost exclusively on results.
But when the flame-throwing righty took the mound for the Red Sox for the first time in over three months during Monday night’s 9-4 loss at Tropicana Field, it was time to shake off the rust and get re-acclimated.
The pitching line (2/3 of an inning, 5 hits, 3 runs, 2 K’s) can thankfully be considered secondary due to the fact Eovaldi came on in the eighth inning with an eight-run lead.
“It felt really good to be back out there, and just competing with all the guys,” said Eovaldi. “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.”
Eovaldi, a postseason hero for the Red Sox last year as a rover (starter and reliever), was supposed to be a cornerstone in the rotation this season. But plans changed when he had surgery in April to repair loose bodies in his elbow and then had a setback of biceps tendinitis that prolonged his return from the initial injury.
By bringing back Eovaldi as a reliever, the Red Sox could accelerate his timetable while also giving the team’s spotty bullpen a high-impact arm.
It will be interesting to see how much Eovaldi’s presence can help the bullpen the rest of the way.
Monday was a necessary first step. Most of his appearances will likely be with the game on the line, though manager Alex Cora has yet to officially commit to him as a closer. Eovaldi’s fastball had plenty of life, as he topped out at 99.2 mph and averaged 97.8.
“Just got his feet wet as a reliever,” said Cora. “The bouncing breaking ball and the splits, if you ask Christian [Vázquez], he should’ve blocked those pitches. He got his feet wet and we’ll use him the next time. The stuff, you saw it. Made some good pitches. Didn’t get a call on the cutter to [Austin] Meadows. That was a swing. Then he got hit on the fastball. Besides that, you saw his stuff. We’re fine with it.”