Red Sox: Nathan Eovaldi reminds fans what he’s capable of in first start

FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during team photo day on February 19, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
FT. MYERS, FL - FEBRUARY 19: Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox poses for a portrait during team photo day on February 19, 2020 at jetBlue Park at Fenway South in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

The Boston Red Sox will need strong pitching if they want to contend this season and Nathan Eovaldi showed that he can be the one to deliver exactly that.

Pitching will be the saving grace or death blow to the Red Sox this upcoming season. Over the last two years, we’ve seen go both routes to mixed results. In 2018, the pitching was unhittable and Boston cruised to another World Series crown. While in 2019, it felt like our pitching staff couldn’t stop a gang of Little Leaguers from hitting moonshots.

I won’t try to pull the wool over your eyes and tell you that everything is all rainbows and sunshine because it isn’t. Boston is without two veteran starters in David Price and Rick Porcello as they march towards Opening Day. They still have a decent rotation in Chris Sale, Eduardo Rodriguez, Martin Perez, and Nathan Eovaldi.

The last name on that list is the one that we’re here to talk about today. Eovaldi got his first start of the spring training season today and he didn’t disappoint. After a 2019 season that was nothing but disappointment for the right-hander, he needs some redemption. Though he only tossed a pair of innings it’s what he did in that timeframe that should spark at least a bit of excitement.

In the two innings of work that he saw today Eovaldi had some electric stuff coming from the mound. The fireballer was able to strike out four batters while walking none and giving up just a pair of hits. Granted, it’s still very early and things can always change, but this is an absolute positive sign.

Nasty Nate seemed pretty happy with his outing today when talking to the media, and more importantly, he was happy with how his splitter performed today.

"“Yeah, I’d say my splitter for sure,” Eovaldi said. “Last year it was real inconsistent. That was one of the pitches I really focused on this offseason. Make sure I got that back on track. Today they were really consistent.”"

It’s hard to disagree with the starter as his splitter was damn near absent last year, but then again, many of his pitches were. It’s a bit of a relief to see flashes of the healthy Eovaldi in today’s start and hopefully, we’ll be seeing more of him.

We all know his history with the Red Sox up to this point but let’s go hastily down memory lane. Eovaldi came to Boston at the trade deadline in 2018 and would soon become a major part of the World Series-winning squad.

The righty would be lauded for his gutsy performances during the postseason where he would spend his off-days in the bullpen ready and willing to pitch. Then there was his extra-inning epic in Game 3 of the World Series.

It was his grit and character when the team needed him the most that earned him a 4 year, $68M contract from then President of Baseball Ops, Dave Dombrowski. Unfortunately, for as great as he was in 2018 we can’t ignore how awful he was in 2019. Eovaldi would spend most of the season on the IL and when he was healthy enough to pitch it wasn’t anything to write home about.

Current interim manager Ron Roenicke was in awe about today’s performance and had nothing but positive things to say about his starter.

"“Oh, gosh, that’s what we talk about when Nate’s got his command. He’s really tough to hit,” said interim manager Ron Roenicke. “He had everything working.”"

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With an increased level of importance in his health this season and promotion within the starting rotation, the Red Sox need him now more than ever. His role will be far more vital in 2020 than it has in the past due to the departure of the aforementioned Price and Porcello. If today was a glimpse into what we can expect from him this upcoming campaign, then I’m pretty damn excited.

I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Eovaldi re-signing last winter and as we saw during this offseason, his salary weighed heavily on the Red Sox. However, if we can get a full season of a healthy Nathan Eovaldi, then that contract may not look as bad as it once had.

"“I think a lot of the inconsistency comes from the injury,” Roenicke said. “I think with Nate, you get him on a roll. Health-wise, he looks great so far. It starts with that great stuff. He starts to get command with it, then all of a sudden you have this great pitcher. I know he’s got great stuff.”"

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The Boston Red Sox will need every pitcher on their absolute highest level during this season. It’ll be “do or die” for this pitching staff, especially if Chaim Bloom doesn’t add to the platoon. Having a healthy Nathan Eovaldi is a major step in the right direction for Boston and only boosts their chances for October baseball. Today was a great start for the powerful righty and a small glance, and opportunity, for him to remind fans just what he’s capable of.