Red Sox manager Alex Cora has garnered applause this October for sensing the right times to go for the moment and employ his most potent options to get a win. Right now, that includes using flamethrowing starter Nathan Eovaldi out of the bullpen, and his lights-out appearances are carrying extra sting for the Red Sox's World Series opponent: Eovaldi was once a Dodger, dealt away in a Trade Deadline blockbuster to the Marlins for another future Boston star, Hanley Ramirez, six years ago.
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Los Angeles selected Eovaldi, a 6-foot-2 righty from Nolan Ryan's hometown of Alvin, Texas, with its 11th-round pick in the 2008 Draft. It was a project pick in some sense; it was clear Eovaldi could throw hard, but the Tommy John surgery he underwent during his junior year of high school knocked him out of action for 11 months.
The Dodgers gave Eovaldi a $250,000 signing bonus, a value commensurate with a player selected seven rounds higher at the time, to forego his scholarship to Texas A&M University. Eovaldi seized the opportunity, knowing the future of his reconstructed elbow was uncertain.
"When you go to college, you want to be that No. 1 starter," Eovaldi said in 2015, "and you might get used a little more than you'd like to. If I were to blow out [my elbow] again, I would rather have it be after I got drafted. I tried to live my dream of becoming a professional athlete."
• Eovaldi is Red Sox's most clutch pitcher
Eovaldi consistently flashed mid-90s velocity and was clocked as high as 100 mph as the Dodgers' No. 5 prospect per MLB Pipeline, and he was called up from Double-A Chattanooga to make his first start for Los Angeles on Aug. 6, 2011. He compiled a 3.63 ERA over 10 appearances (six starts) down the stretch and made 10 more starts to begin the '12 campaign before his career path took a turn.
• Eovaldi electric as ever in Game 2
The Dodgers were in a race with the Giants in the National League West. The Marlins were beginning another fire sale after offseason acquisitions Heath Bell, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes were unable to deliver on-field success. And so, on July 25, 2012, the Dodgers sent Eovaldi and Minor League righty Scott McGough to Miami for Ramirez, the superstar shortstop, and reliever Randy Choate.
Adding Ramirez helped the Dodgers win the first two of their six straight NL West titles in 2013-14, and for a while, it seemed that trading Eovaldi away wasn't too costly. He was a middling starter in Miami (4.10 ERA) before he was traded again to the Yankees, where his 4.45 ERA over two seasons was seen as a disappointment for a pitcher with his premium velocity.
Eovaldi missed the entire 2017 season thanks to a second Tommy John surgery, then returned this spring to pitch for Tampa Bay and, eventually, Boston, arriving via trade on July 25 -- six years to the day after the Dodgers originally dealt him away. Eovaldi's Red Sox debut came just over two months after Ramirez's final game in a Red Sox uniform.
Eovaldi's career transactions
June 5, 2008: Selected by Dodgers in 11th round (337th overall) of Draft
July 25, 2012: Traded with McGough to Marlins for Ramirez and Choate
Dec. 19, 2014: Dealt with Domingo German and Garrett Jones to Yankees for David Phelps, Martin Prado and cash
Nov. 23, 2016: Released by Yankees after undergoing second Tommy John surgery in August
Feb. 14, 2017: Signed with Rays and returned to Majors on May 30, 2018
July 25, 2018: Traded to Red Sox for Jalen Beeks
And now things have come full circle this postseason, where Eovaldi has been a force. In his first taste of October, the righty owns a 1.65 ERA, with winning starts against the Yankees and Astros, and electric relief appearances in Games 1 and 2 of the World Series against his original club. Eovaldi has averaged 98.9 mph on his fastball and thrown eight of his 10 hardest pitches of 2018 in October. After two Tommy John procedures, Eovaldi has proven up to the task of unpredictable usage patterns, and Cora did not shy away from the possibility of using him late again in Game 3.
"The way it's mapped out, it's Rick [Porcello] in Game 3 and maybe Nate Game 4," Cora said on Wednesday night. "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. [Eovaldi] has been amazing for us."
Eovaldi is proving to be a testament to patience and persistence, and if he continues to be lights-out, Dodgers fans might wish their team had held on to him a little longer.