After announcing on NESN Wednesday night that Nathan Eovaldi would be starting the Red Sox’ Grapefruit League opener against the Twins on Sunday, manager Alex Cora provided more details on what went into that decision earlier on Friday.
“It’s just the progression,” Cora said when speaking with reporters via Zoom. “It’s his turn to pitch on Sunday. Obviously, there’s a thought process, but it’s his turn to pitch. That’s it.”
Eovaldi, who turned 31 earlier this month, said over the weekend that he feels good as he prepares to embark upon his third full season with Boston.
The veteran right-hander is coming off a truncated 2020 campaign in which he posted a 3.72 ERA and 3.87 FIP over just nine starts and 48 1/3 innings pitched on account of being hampered with a right calf strain in August.
Arm-wise, though, Eovaldi is holding up just fine, and he figures to open the 2021 season as Boston’s No. 2 starter.
And not that it means much, but last spring, the Texas native put together eight scoreless innings while scattering just four hits and one walk to go along with 12 strikeouts over three Grapefruit League outings.
Cora has yet to reveal his starting lineup for Sunday’s contest against Minnesota, but he did say that Rafael Devers will play third, Enrique Hernandez will play short, Christian Arroyo will play second, Bobby Dalbec will play first, and Christian Vazquez will catch.
The starting outfield for that day has yet to be determined.
Following Eovaldi in the Sox’ early spring rotation will be fellow right-hander Garrett Richards, who gets the nod to start against the Braves and make his Red Sox debut at JetBlue Park on Monday.
“Stuff-wise, for me, he was one of the best in the league,” Cora recently said of Richards’ 2020 season — in which he produced a 4.03 ERA over 14 outings (10 starts) and 51 1/3 innings of work — with the Padres. “He’s been hurt, but what I saw last year with the Padres was eye-opening. I’m glad that he’s with us. This is a guy that when we talked to him during the offseason, he feels that there’s more. For how veteran he is and his age, he hasn’t wasted too many bullets, right? Because he’s been hurt.”
Assuming he stays healthy this spring, the 32-year-old Richards figures to open the season as Boston’s No. 3 starter behind Eovaldi.
MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo notes that “Cora has been impressed with how far along both Eovaldi and Richards are” so far this spring.
“Every year is something different, and medical-wise, we mapped it out,” said the Sox skipper. “It’s not that we’re going to rush these guys into pitching eight innings right away, but they’re in a good spot.”
Sunday’s Grapefruit League opener against the Twins will not be televised, but Monday’s game against the Braves will be on NESN.
As a matter of fact, here is a full list of all the Red Sox’ spring training games NESN will be broadcasting in March.
In total, the Sox are slated to play 29 Grapefruit League games against the Braves, Orioles, Pirates, Rays, and Twins between February 28 and March 30.
(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)