LAS VEGAS -- When one of Nathan Eovaldi's representatives called him last week to tell him that his four-year, $68 million contract with the Red Sox was complete, the World Series hero was on the roof of his Texas home installing his Christmas lights.That phone call was an early Christmas
LAS VEGAS -- When one of Nathan Eovaldi's representatives called him last week to tell him that his four-year, $68 million contract with the Red Sox was complete, the World Series hero was on the roof of his Texas home installing his Christmas lights.
That phone call was an early Christmas presents of sorts -- and the kind of deal Eovaldi never could have imagined when he was undergoing a second Tommy John surgery just over two years ago.
And the fact that Eovaldi was putting the lights on his house rather than hiring someone to do it served as a sign that World Series stardom and a big payday won't change Eovaldi's most endearing quality -- his work ethic.
Eovaldi flew to Vegas on Monday -- a glitzy venue that doesn't suit his low-key personality at all -- for a press conference to discuss his return to the World Series champions.
Fittingly, the no-frills Eovaldi told agent Seth Levinson he was a little nervous to speak on stage in front of all the assembled media. Levinson laughed and said, "What do you mean? You have ice water in your veins."
Eovaldi proved that many times during this past postseason, and he's thrilled to be back with a Boston team he helped put over the top following his acquisition at the end of July.
"Yeah, the Red Sox were definitely at the top of my list of teams I would like to come back to and be a part of," Eovaldi said. "I think, just because of that experience that I had, I was only there for such a short amount of time, but the relationship that I was able to build with my teammates and fans and the coaching staff and things like that, I wasn't something I was ready to part ways with."
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In typical Eovaldi fashion, he didn't make a show of his free agency. He told his representation that playing for a winning team was his sole priority and not to even negotiate with non-contenders. If Eovaldi had wavered from this, there's a chance he could have gotten a five-year deal.
But all perceived non-contenders were informed they were out of the running, and a deal was quickly struck to bring Eovaldi back to a Boston team that is thrilled to have him back as part of a rotation that also includes Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Eduardo Rodriguez.
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"When he came in, he bought into a concept," said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. "Throughout the regular season we made some adjustments as far as usage and the way he was attacking hitters, and I can't wait to see him again with us. He's going to be a huge part of this rotation, and he's a workaholic. He goes to the weight room, prepares; training room, same deal. He studies."
Though Eovaldi's coming-out party was in 2018 for Cora and the Red Sox, some of his past managers were thrilled to see his hard work pay off -- both in October and in free agency.
"The stuff after two Tommy John [surgeries], the way the ball was coming out, his stuff was incredible," said Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who had Eovaldi with the Dodgers. "I think the one thing that always stood out about Nate was just this work ethic of the way this guy worked and worked and worked. And he was one of those guys that you were, like, if you're going to bet on anybody, it's betting on him.
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"Those guys don't come along that often that have that type of work ethic, and they're just fierce in their work. So what stood out is really that he maintained the same stuff after two Tommy John [surgeries], and it was really good to see him have that kind of success. And you love seeing ... good things happen for guys that work like he did."
Rays manager Kevin Cash had Eovaldi in his rotation for 10 starts in 2018, before he was traded to the Red Sox.
"So happy for him," said Cash. "I'm not too thrilled that he decided to stay in the division and sign back with the Red Sox, but we'll work around that. But watching him perform, we really got to know Nate Eovaldi in 2017, when he was hurt. And the way he came to the ballpark, the way he went about his rehab, the type of teammate he was, you can't help but pull for the guy. And then he had so much success for us and then he went on to Boston and the way he took the ball. And obviously the extra-inning game, it was fun to watch."
Yes, the extra-inning game. That would be the 18-inning epic the Red Sox lost in Game 3 of the World Series when Eovaldi somehow became the hero in defeat, firing six innings of relief and not giving an inch until Player Page for Max Muncy finally walked him off.
That performance vaulted Eovaldi to another level with both his teammates and the rabid fan base known as Red Sox Nation. To Eovaldi, he was just doing his job.
"As it was going on, no [I didn't realize it was a big deal]," Eovaldi said. "I'm really just the facts. I got the loss in that game, and I feel like I didn't do enough. Had I not walked that one batter, he wouldn't have been on first base, which led to the error which led to them being able to score. So I feel like I put a lot of that on myself. But now I understand. I see it now. Being able to go out there for the six innings in that situation, it's special to me still."
Now, the Red Sox will do everything they can to keep the 28-year-old healthy. Cora had already been in contact with Eovaldi about usage patterns and a workout regimen even before the new deal was struck.
"I mean, he was kind of acting like I was already part of the team still," Eovaldi said. "I appreciated that because it kept my mind right knowing if I came back, the plan was already set in motion."
With Sale and Porcello eligible for free agency after next season, securing Eovaldi's services going forward was important.
"I think it's part of the equation, very important," said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. "We know that there's a lot of question marks about long-term contracts for some of the members of our club. It's going to be a juggling act over the next several years. Again, we know we're not going to be able to sign everybody, but the more stability that's out there, the better off we are."
Ian Browne has covered the Red Sox for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne and Facebook.