Baseball is slated to make its return in July and, if the Boston Red Sox want to be successful in this shortened season, Nathan Eovaldi needs to be in top form.
Delayed now by three months – four by time the season starts – Major League Baseball is again ready to rumble. For fans of the Boston Red Sox, that means pinning the hopes of a 2020 title on the backs of a likely solid offense and shaky starting rotation.
That’s exactly why it’s time for Nathan Eovaldi to shine.
Eduardo Rodriguez, much like he was in 2019, will be the ace of the staff. And Martín Pérez, acquired via free agency, is expected to be a reliable starter. Eovaldi will fill out the top third of the rotation, whether in the number two or three spot. Beyond that, however, there are question marks abound, meaning Boston will need to see the 2018 version of Eovaldi rather than the 2019 experience.
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Run support should not be an issue for the Red Sox. Even with the trade of Mookie Betts, the offense still packs a formidable punch. JD Martinez, Xander Bogaerts, and Rafael Devers bring plenty of firepower and are surrounded by the likes of Christian Vazquez, Andrew Benintendi, and the newly-acquired and ready-to-shine former Los Angeles Dodger Alex Verdugo.
Backed by a talented offense, Eovaldi can go out and simply pitch. We’ve seen him thrive under pressure, which is exactly what this season will be. A 60-game schedule means we don’t necessarily have a general idea of what record will deliver a playoff berth. (27-33, anyone?) The margin for error will be slim and, considering the Red Sox will be facing not only the American League East but the N.L. East as well, Boston will need Eovaldi at his best. Here are three incentives for him in 2020.
Nathan Eovaldi has to be a solid number 2
Rodriguez is coming off a career season, meaning he’s a lock at the top of the rotation. As a veteran of the group, Eovaldi should emerge as a solid number 2.
The second spring training of 2020 is set to kick off on July 1 so it will be interesting to see what this layoff has done for Eovaldi. He came out firing back in March, with scoreless appearances and hitting 100 miles per hour with pitches on the radar.
Part of his responsibility as the number two man in the rotation will be setting the tone for the Red Sox. He has a chance to eat innings, especially given the changes to how relief pitchers are used. Plus, with uncertainties surrounding the tail end of the rotation and the possible use of an opener, the less innings the bullpen sees early in the rotation the better.
As the second man up, a reasonable incentive would be seven wins, something quite attainable if he channels 2018.
A of 2018 for Nathan Eovaldi
Healthy and productive, Eovaldi should receive between 10 and 12 starts here in the 2020 season. This is exactly what he gave the Red Sox in 2018 when he helped the team to its fourth title of the 21st-century.
In 11 starts that year, Eovaldi went 3-3 with a 3.33 ERA and 48 strikeouts. He’s never been a huge strikeout guy, but part of his success that season was his strikeout-to-walk ratio. Prior to that year between Tampa Bay and Boston, Eovaldi had only gone over 3-to-1 once, in 2014 while with Miami. In 2018, it was 4:1 with Boston and nearly 7:1 with Tampa.
Numbers like that will mean Eovaldi is thriving, something 2019 didn’t hold. He had a 5.99 ERA while appearing in 23 games (12 starts). Injuries plagued Eovaldi at first and he never seemed to regain that confidence he had in 2018. Home runs were also in issue, as Eovaldi allowed 16 after only giving up three with the Red Sox in ’18.
The big picture for Eovaldi is to be dependable and remind the team while they gave him the nice contract after the ’18 season. An award or two might help.
Can Nathan Eovaldi win the Cy Young?
What better chance to win a Cy Young Award in a shortened season?
Sure, maybe it won’t mean as much but when you only have be impressive over over 12 starts rather than 30, accept that challenge. For Eovaldi, reaching this incentive is one more step in putting the disastrous 2019 season behind him. And it’s always a bonus to collect some nice hardware in your career.
Of course, etching your name onto another World Series title is the ultimate goal. It won’t be easy, but Eovaldi giving us a dose of 2018 will go a long way in ensuring the 2020 season is a successful one.