Postseason hero Eovaldi primed for 'special' Opening Day start

March 19th, 2024

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- In 1992, Nolan Ryan, who went to Alvin (Texas) High School, made the final Opening Day start of his career for the Texas Rangers. Now, 22 years later, another pitcher from Alvin will take the mound in Arlington as just the second Texas-native to start for the club on Opening Day: .

“It's special anytime I get to be out there on the field pitching in Texas,” Eovaldi said. “But I think it's also special because we won the World Series last year, and [it's special] to be able to come out [and pitch] that first one. There's gonna be a lot of excitement, a lot of adrenaline and the fans are going to be there for the first series. It's Opening Day and baseball is back, so it's very exciting.”

It was seemingly a no-brainer for Rangers manager Bruce Bochy, who announced Eovaldi as the starter on Tuesday morning, but said he discussed it with him over the phone back in December. This will be Eovaldi’s fourth career Opening Day start, as he also was handed the honors from 2020-22 in Boston.

It’s easy to see why Bochy didn’t even consider anybody else besides Eovaldi for the Opening Day start. The 34-year-old obviously brings fire and passion on the mound, but he’s undoubtedly valuable to the Rangers in many other ways, both on and off the field.

“It's so hard to quantify what he does besides what he brings when he is on the mound,” Bochy said. “You see him in the bullpen in the early part of Spring Training. He's out there watching the guys, he's talking to them. It's great to have that kind of leadership.

“As a manager, you appreciate those guys that step in and reach out. As I've said, they really help you and they really become another set of eyes and ears. Guys just gravitate to him. He just has an infectious personality that you want to be around.”

Eovaldi will be the club’s 15th different Opening Day starter since 2010.

With 2023 Opening Day starter Jacob deGrom (Tommy John) and Max Scherzer (herniated disc) both sidelined to begin the season as they continue rehabbing, the Opening Day honors unsurprisingly landed with Eovaldi, who has been the pseudo-ace of the Rangers’ staff since last season when deGrom landed on the injured list in May.

And he’s looked every bit of an ace ever since then. In 2023, Eovaldi earned his second career All-Star bid, posting a 3.63 ERA in 25 starts (144 innings). He was one of the Rangers’ many postseason heroes after going 5-0 with a 2.95 ERA in his six postseason outings en route to his second career World Series title.

Eovaldi clinched Texas’ Wild Card Series win in Game 2 with 6 2/3 innings against the Rays at Tropicana Field. He held the in-state rival Astros to two runs over 6 1/3 innings to force Game 7 in the ALCS.

He was even on the mound to clinch Game 5 of the World Series, where he went toe-to-toe with Arizona ace Zac Gallen, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Despite that, Eovaldi matched him zero for zero all night, even though he had traffic in almost every inning.

But even with a clinching game to his name, the lasting image of Eovaldi in Texas may be his seven innings of one-run ball to seal the Rangers’ American League Division Series sweep over the Orioles at Globe Life Field. After his seven dominant innings, the sold-out crowd expressed its appreciation, rewarding Eovaldi with a curtain call as he stood atop the Rangers' dugout to tip his hat to the crowd.

He’s sure to receive a similar ovation from the crowd on March 28.

“I take a lot of pride in being able to take that ball on every fifth day and making sure I make all those starts,” Eovaldi said. “It’ll definitely get the adrenaline going and it's going to be fun, especially coming off the World Series. The fans are going to be there, it's going to be a lot of excitement and it's a huge honor, again, to be able to have that first start on Opening Day.”