By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Three weeks ago, a report indicated that the Red Sox had decided to use Nathan Eovaldi in the back end of their bullpen rather than re-insert him into the starting rotation when he returned from the injured list. The idea behind the decision was that the overworked and underperforming bullpen could use the help, and Eovaldi’s velocity and recent experience in the postseason as a reliever would make for a seamless transition.
That may end up being the case, but Eovaldi’s first showing went about as poorly as could be imagined.
Eovaldi entered Monday night’s game in Tampa with an 8-0 lead in the eighth inning, in a game where the opponent was just about ready to turn in for the evening and call it a night. (The Rays used an infielder to pitch the ninth inning.) Despite the low-stakes, low-stress environment, Eovaldi couldn’t make it through the inning.
Light-hitting outfielder Guillermo Heredia led off with an infield single on the first pitch of Eovaldi’s outing, and he advanced to second on a wild pitch. Travis d’Arnaud then ripped a double to left field on a 2-2 fastball, bringing home the first Tampa run of the night.
Eovaldi did get Tommy Phan to stare at strike three in the next at-bat, but Austin Meadows then smoked a line drive off the right field wall to drive in d’Arnaud. Yandy Diaz then singled to bring Meadows in from second base.
Alex Cora gave Eovaldi the chance to get out of the inning, and the right-hander managed to Avisail Garcia to go down swinging. But Michael Brousseau then sent the first pitch of his at-bat into center field for a single. With that, Eovaldi’s night was done.
Matt Barnes entered the game and put out the fire, preventing two more potential runs to be charged to Eovaldi. Still, Eovaldi allowed five hits and three earned runs in his 0.2 innings of work.
Suffice it to say, that’s not what the Red Sox were looking for when they hoped Eovaldi could help stabilize the back end of the bullpen.
“Definitely didn’t go as planned, but the most important thing is I feel really good and excited to go back out there,” Eovaldi said, per The Boston Globe.
In just two-thirds of an inning of work, the 29-year-old’s ERA jumped from 6.00 to 7.06, and his WHIP climbed from 1.523 to 1.708. Eovaldi blamed Monday’s results on bad location, and Cora said it was just a case of Eovaldi getting his “feet wet” as a reliever.
In an 8-0 game, the results hardly mattered. The Red Sox went on to win 9-3. But if Eovaldi is to play a real role in that bullpen, he’s unlikely to get any more soft landings as the Red Sox embark on their most important stretch of the season.