Nathan Eovaldi spent Saturday morning throwing high-octane fastballs during a live batting practice session on Field 1 at Fenway South. The impressive display on the third day of camp was a product of Eovaldi having his most productive offseason in years, one in which he didn’t have to focus on rehabbing any injuries.
“Nate looked great. He threw a perfect game on Field 1,” quipped Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “He was outstanding. The ball was coming out of the hand really, really well. So, it was a good first step. His stuff is good, you know, and we’ve just got to make sure he stays healthy throughout. We're going keep paying attention to what he does and looking forward to seeing him compete this season.”
Though Eovaldi missed three weeks in August 2020 due to a right calf strain, his arm was never an issue in Spring Training, Summer Camp or the regular season.
With Chris Sale out until at least midseason and Eduardo Rodriguez returning after missing all of last season, Eovaldi will be a key pitcher for the Red Sox.
Eovaldi will likely open the season as the No. 2 starter behind Rodriguez.
Early signs are that he’s ready to take on the responsibility.
“Spring Training is going great. Offseason was good. Coming in now, it’s a lot of excitement with a lot of the young guys, and new guys joining the team,” Eovaldi said. “So, Spring Training has been fun. Adjustments? I treated it just like any other offseason. My arm feels really fresh. My body feels great. It’s just going out there and competing.”
When Eovaldi is at his best, he can be a dominant pitcher. That was most apparent in the 2018 postseason, when he had a 1.61 ERA over 22 1/3 innings and played a key role in Boston winning the World Series.
The key, as always, will be for the righty to stay off the injured list.
“I feel like I had a good plan going into the offseason,” Eovaldi said. “I feel like we really capitalized on the things we needed to work on: range of motion, things like that. So, I’m feeling really good coming into Spring Training.”
Cora talks ‘a lot’ with JBJ
One of Cora’s strengths as a manager is the relationships he builds with his players. In other words, just because center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is a free agent doesn’t mean Cora has lost touch with him.
“We talk a lot, but we don’t talk baseball,” Cora said. “We don’t talk about his situation. I ask about [his daughter] Emerson and the baby and how they’re doing. He asks about my family. We keep it at that. Obviously, he’s a good player. He’s a guy that can help any team in the big leagues to win ballgames. But I think there’s more than just the manager and the player. There’s a relationship, and I can keep our conversations with that.”
While it seems unlikely the Red Sox will re-sign Bradley, because they are trying to stay below the luxury-tax threshold of $210 million, chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom has steadfastly maintained that the sides are staying in touch.
Darwinzon in bullpen ‘as of now’
The question has persisted for the last couple of years: Will Darwinzon Hernandez move back to his original starting role?
For now, the answer is no. In fact, Cora has big plans for the power lefty in his bullpen.
“As of now, we’re going to treat him as a reliever. We do believe that stuff-wise, he can give us big outs late in games,” Cora said. “Those are decisions, they might change over the course of the season or the course of Spring Training. As of now, we’ll treat him like a reliever, and a reliever that is going to contribute to us in the last third of the game.”
Whitlock opening eyes
There are a number of pitchers jockeying for position in what could be a nine-man bullpen for the Red Sox. One arm that has already stood out to Cora is that of Garrett Whitlock, the righty the Red Sox claimed from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft.
Boston must keep Whitlock on its active roster all season or offer him back to the Yankees.
“Whitlock is a guy that I'll be paying a lot of attention to,” Cora said. “Wait until you ... see him; he plays the part. He threw a bullpen yesterday; it was very impressive. And the most impressive thing about him is the way he acts, the way he takes care of his body and what he does. He’s a very quiet kid, he knows what he wants to do. And I’m looking forward to seeing him pitch and see where it takes us.”