BOSTON (CBS) — Nathan Eovaldi is ready to return to the Boston Red Sox. He’ll do so in a different role than he had in April, but one he’s confident that he can handle.
Eovaldi proved that he could provide some important innings out of the Boston bullpen last postseason, serving as the team’s “rover” in their run to another World Series title. After being sidelined since April after having loose bodies removed from his throwing elbow, the 29-year-old flamethrower will again take his spot in the Boston bullpen when he returns this weekend. Eovaldi will be activated Saturday or Sunday as the Red Sox take on the Orioles in a three-game series in Baltimore.READ MORE: Former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia Sentenced To 6 Years In Prison
Eovaldi made things look pretty easy on Thursday, when he tossed a scoreless inning out of the pen for the Pawtucket Red Sox. The righty got the call in the second inning and struck out the side, allowing no hits and one walk.
“I felt good. Came in in the second inning, warmed up like I normally would coming out of the bullpen,” he told reporters. “I felt really good. Fastball felt good, cutter felt good. I didn’t throw any splits, but I threw 3-2 curveballs and they felt good.”
Eovaldi got his work out of the way early in the day, and was at Fenway Park in time to watch the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 5-0. He had a front row seat in the dugout as Boston relievers twirled three scoreless innings to seal the win.
While manager Alex Cora won’t say it just yet, Eovaldi is expected to assume the role of Boston’s closer. Cora has gone with a revolving door or relievers for the ninth inning, whether it’s been Matt Barnes, Ryan Brasier or — most recently — Brandon Workman.READ MORE: Gift Of Over $20 Million For Boston's Esplanade Would Fund New Visitors Center, Outdoor Spaces
Adding Eovaldi to the mix in the bullpen will give the Red Sox a lot more depth to work with in the late innings of games. Barnes and Brasier (who is now in the minors) both showed signs of being overworked during the first half of the season, and battled bouts of ineffectiveness because of it. Others have come and gone, but it seems like the Red Sox have a good group at the moment. Workman has been solid all season, Josh Taylor has seen more high-leverage situations lately, and top prospect Darwinzon Hernandez was added to the mix earlier this week. The Red Sox are hoping that the addition of Eovaldi will have a trickle down effect that will get the bullpen firing on all cylinders the final two-plus months of the regular season.
“It’s very significant,” Cora said of Eovaldi’s addition to the bullpen. “That’s one more arm, and there’s a few more guys that have thrown the ball well, too. You’ve got J.T. and you’ve got Work and you’ve got Barnesy throwing the ball better. You’ve got Nate. It’s kind of like the domino effect, one more guy is going to help us get the previous inning and the previous inning and the previous inning.”
While there are obvious concerns with moving a pitcher whose elbow has been surgically repaired (twice) to the bullpen, the Red Sox are doing it out of necessity. It would have taken too long to build Eovaldi back up to his starter strength, so they’d rather have him attempt to make an impact in the bullpen now rather than wait for him to return to the rotation in August or September. He’s still not at the point where he can pitch back-to-back days, which he said is going to be the biggest adjustment coming out of the bullpen.
“Just throwing every day and being ready to go everyday. I’ve been trying to do that now and get my mind right for it, but until you get through that situation and actually go through it — we’ll see how it goes then,” he said Thursday.
But Eovaldi proved he was a bulldog in any role last October, and he’s ready for whenever Cora calls his number, whether that comes in the seventh, eighth or ninth inning.MORE NEWS: LOOK: Boston Street Becomes Snowy Set For Christmas Movie Shoot
“I feel like I’m ready to go,” said Eovaldi. “Use [Friday] as a recovery day and be ready for Saturday or Sunday.”