Boston Red Sox right-handed pitcher Nathan Eovaldi struggling in his first start since tweaking his mechanics under the guidance of Pedro Martinez.
Identifying a problem is only half the battle. Implementing the solution doesn’t necessarily happen overnight. Boston Red Sox starter Nathan Eovaldi made some mechanical adjustments prior to his most recent outing and it’s clear from the results that he’s still working out the kinks.
Eovaldi’s brilliant beginning to his tenure with the Red Sox was quickly washed away. After tossing 15 scoreless innings over his first two starts, Eovaldi is 0-3 with a 6.85 ERA in his last six outings with Boston.
His struggles caught the attention of Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez, who worked with Eovaldi prior to his most recent outing. The conversation focused on Eovaldi landing more on his toes rather than his heel at the end of his delivery.
When a legend like Pedro talks, you listen. Eovaldi was receptive to the advice but making the adjustment in games will take some getting used to.
"“By the time we figured it out it was already toward the end of my side. So we were kind of fighting with my time,” said Eovaldi. “It’s just so different for me because I just I have always landed on my heel. It feels pretty good, but it’s always hard to take new things into a game.”"
Eovaldi certainly didn’t look comfortable in his first start since making this adjustment. He entered the game with a 1.19 BB/9 rate this season, which ranked second in the majors among pitchers with a minimum of 90 innings. That’s why it was so shocking to watch him walk the bases loaded in the first inning. The right-hander hadn’t issued more than two walks in any previous outing this season, let alone in the same inning.
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While he managed to escape the inning without any damage and completed his outing without allowing a run, this was still a troubling start for Eovaldi. He ended up walking four batters and was lifted with one out in the fourth inning when his pitch count reached 86.
Eovaldi relied almost exclusively on fastballs, throwing a four-seam, cutter, and split-finger. He threw only one slider and one curveball in the game. At least he varied the type of fastball he used but Eovaldi missed location with each of them.
Was avoiding the breaking ball part of the game plan against the Atlanta Braves or was Eovaldi simply not comfortable throwing those pitches while adjusting to his altered mechanics? It could be a coincidence but it’s rare for him to take both pitches out of his arsenal.
Pedro’s advice may pan out in the long run but it’s going to take Eovaldi time to make the adjustment. It’s unrealistic to ask him to do something on the fly that differs from what he’s done his entire career without some bumps in the road.
There were some positives to take away from this outing. Eovaldi showed he could buckle down when he got into trouble, getting out of jams without allowing a run. He also struck out four batters in less than four innings. Once he gets comfortable with his revamped delivery he should regain his control of the strike zone. We may then see a new and improved version of Eovaldi.