After it was reported by NESN’s Tom Caron on Monday that Nathan Eovaldi will become the Red Sox’ closer when he returns from the injured list, manager Alex Cora made things official in Toronto on Tuesday, stating that the right-hander will move to the bullpen once he is healthy.
Although there was no clear indication that Eovaldi will serve as a traditional closer for Boston, this moves come at a time when the Sox’ bullpen has been under heavy scrutiny lately, especially during this past weekend’s series against the New York Yankees in London.
Since June 20th, Red Sox relievers have posted a cumulative 8.73 ERA and .321 batting average against over their last eight games played, both the worst in all of baseball in that span.
Eovaldi, 29, last recorded a save on June 14, 2009, more than 10 years ago, when he was a prospect in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization and pitching for the Class-A Great Lakes Loons.
In eight career big league appearances as a reliever, the Texas Native owns a lifetime 3.21 ERA and .188 batting average against over 14 total innings of work.
The Red Sox this season lead the American League in blown saves with 17 in 34 opportunities, so the need is obviously there to bolster the back end of a struggling bullpen.
Matt Barnes was viewed as the man who would see the most high leverage opportunities for Boston, but now it appears that role will shift over to Eovaldi once he returns from the IL.
One problem that comes into light once this move is made would be the Sox’ starting rotation.
Eovaldi inked a four-year, $68 milliion deal with Boston back in December to be a starter, he said as much during his press conference at the baseball winter meetings in Las Vegas.
Moving Eovaldi to the ‘pen would leave the Red Sox with the same issue they have been trying to deal with in the righty’s absence, that being the fifth and final spot in the rotation.
So far, names such as Brian Johnson, Hector Velazquez, Josh Smith, and Ryan Weber have made spot starts for Boston, and none have ran into a great deal of success in that role.
When speaking with MLB Network Radio on Tuesday, Cora did not rule out the possibility of Eovaldi returning to the starting rotation later in the season.
Out since the middle of April while recovering from right elbow surgery to remove loose bodies from the area, Eovaldi could be back sooner rather than later now that he will not have to ramp up his workload.
There’s also no guarantee that the former 11th round pick, who as already mentioned has no real closing experience, will be a shutdown reliever once he makes his return. How will his elbow react to working multiple times in a week, compared to just once every five days? That much is unknown.
This all goes to show how unprepared the Red Sox were for the 2019 season. They lost two key pieces of their World Series-winning bullpen in Joe Kelly and Craig Kimbrel, and did almost nothing to address it outside of acquiring Colten Brewer.