Nathan Eovaldi puts together ‘amazing’ performance against Rays on Wednesday to finish off three-game sweep; ‘We needed that,’ Alex Cora says

Of the four starts Nathan Eovaldi made for the Red Sox over the course of spring training, his outing against the Rays in Fort Myers was undoubtedly his worst one.

Over four innings of work back on March 19, the veteran right-hander surrendered five earned runs on eight hits, one walk, and five strikeouts.

It may have just been a meaningless Grapefruit League game, but the lessons Eovaldi learned from that performance last month proved to be worthwhile during his second start of the regular season on Wednesday.

Working against the Rays at Fenway Park this time around, the 31-year-old dazzled by yielding just one earned run on three hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon. He needed just 91 pitches (60 strikes) to get through those seven frames.

“[Kevin] Plawecki and I had a good game plan going into it,” Eovaldi said when asked about his impressive showing against his former team on Wednesday. “We were able to follow up with everything, try to keep them off balance. In spring training, I learned a lot when they got to me early in the game. So I had to really mix my pitches today, and I was able to do that.”

Of the 91 pitches Eovaldi threw on Wednesday, 35 were four-seam fastballs, 20 were curveballs, 19 were sliders, nine were cutters, and eight were splitters. He induced 17 swings-and-misses from Rays hitters in total.

“I didn’t really have one pitch that wasn’t working,” added Eovaldi. “I was able to use the curveball, the slider — I used that a lot today, the cutter, splitty was good. I was able to locate the fastball. I made some mechanical adjustments the other day and they really helped me out. So I feel really good out there.”

With the Red Sox finishing off a three-game sweep of the Rays on Wednesday, Eovaldi was able to pick up his first winning decision and improve to 1-1 on the young season.

That Eovaldi was able to go seven innings in his second start of the year proved to be crucial for the Sox considering how spent their bullpen was following Tuesday night’s 6-5 win over Tampa Bay that took 12 innings to complete.

“We needed that,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “The fact that he only threw 91 pitches, it was very important. But he went seven. Where we were pitching-wise today, we needed a big performance from him, and he did.”

Eovaldi himself echoes this same sort of sentiment in regards to picking up a depleted pitching staff the day after a lengthy game.

“The way we started the season 0-3 against the Orioles, obviously we’re not happy with that,” Eovaldi said. “But then to come in, last night was a huge game for us. We were able to come back from behind, tie it up in the late innings, ultimately win the game. Both sides of the bullpen, we were down. So we were short on guys.

“For me to be able to come out there today, go a little deeper in the game for us, and then for us to come out on top today, have the sweep — especially against the Rays — it’s a big one for us,” he added. “Big series win.”

Through his first two starts of the year, the Houston-area native has allowed just two earned runs over his first 12 1/3 innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 1.46 as well as a 0.89 WHIP.

“He was amazing,” Cora said of Eovaldi. “He’s got two starts already. He’s done an amazing job mixing up pitches, throwing strikes. The fact he only made like 92 [pitches] in the first one, [91 pitches] today. Now he gets one more day in between starts. That’s really good for him.”

Eovaldi is slated to pitch again against the Twins in Minnesota next Tuesday.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi hurls 7 strong innings, Christian Vazquez crushes another homer as Red Sox complete sweep of Rays with 9-2 win in series finale

The Red Sox had nowhere to go but up after getting swept by the Orioles over the weekend, and up they went in the process of completing a three-game sweep of the Rays with a commanding 9-2 victory over Tampa Bay on Wednesday.

Eovaldi tosses seven solid frames

Nathan Eovaldi led the way in his second start of the season, tossing seven innings of one-run ball while scattering just three hits and three walks to go along with seven strikeouts on the afternoon.

After giving up that one run on an RBI single in the third, the veteran right-hander retired 11 of the final 15 hitters he faced from the fourth inning on.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 91 (60 strikes), Eovaldi relied on his four-seam fastball 38% of the time he was on the mound Wednesday, inducing eight swings-and-misses while topping out at 99 mph with the pitch.

Ultimately picking up his first winning winning decision of the season, the 31-year-old hurler was named the YouTube Player of the Game for his efforts. His next start should come against the Twins in Minnesota next week.

In relief of Eovaldi, left-hander Josh Taylor wrapped things up by allowing one run over the final two innings of Wednesday’s contest to preserve the 9-2 win for his side.

Martinez, Bogaerts, Vazquez lead the way offensively

A Yoshi Tsutsugo RBI single gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead in the third inning, but the Boston bats responded with three runs of their own an inning later.

Xander Bogaerts knotted things up at one by driving in Rafael Devers on a line-drive, run-scoring single to center field off Rays left-hander Ryan Yarbrough, then Christian Vazquez took things into his own hands a few moments later.

Starting at designated hitter after catching all 12 innings on Tuesday, Vazquez crushed his second home run of the season — and second in as many days — off a 2-1, 83 mph cutter from Yarbrough at the top of the strike zone.

Vazquez’s 376-foot blast over the Green Monster gave the Sox a 3-1 advantage.

Aided by a two-run double from a red-hot J.D. Martinez, Bogaerts, Vazquez, Hunter Renfroe, and Christian Vazquez combined to tack on four additional insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth with some help from some sloppy fielding from the Rays.

By the time Arroyo drove in Renfroe on an RBI double to shallow right field, the Red Sox had jumped out to a 9-2 lead, which would be more than enough to secure a 9-2, series-sweeping win on Wednesday.

Next up: First road trip of the season

After salvaging their first homestand of the year to improve to 3-3 through their first six games, the Red Sox will head to Baltimore for the first leg of a two-city, seven-game road trip.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez will be making his first start of the season in Thursday’s opener against the Orioles, and he will be matched up against veteran right-hander Matt Harvey.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 3:05 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox manage just 1 hit off John Means in Opening Day shutout loss to Orioles

For the first time since 1976, the Red Sox were held scoreless on Opening Day, as the club fell to the Orioles by a final score of 3-0 on Friday afternoon to kick off the 2021 regular season at Fenway Park.

Nathan Eovaldi made his first start of the season and second consecutive Opening Day start for Boston in this one, and he picked up where he left off last year in terms of performing well against Baltimore.

That being the case because on Friday, the veteran right-hander limited the O’s to just one run on four hits and one walk to go along with four strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings of work.

Eovaldi was not on the mound at the time he was charged with that one run. He had retired nine of the last 10 hitters he faced leading up to the one-out mark in the top half of the sixth, at which point he got the hook in favor of fellow righty Matt Andriese on account of a relatively high pitch count.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 89 (54 strikes), the 31-year-old hurler turned to his four-seam fastball 52% of the time he was on the mound Friday, inducing five swings-and-misses while topping out at 98.6 mph with the pitch.

Ultimately hit with his first losing decision of the year, Eovaldi will look to rebound in his next time out, which should come back at Fenway Park against the reigning American League champion Tampa Bay Rays next Wednesday.

In relief of Eovaldi, Andriese came on in relief with a runner on and two outs to get in the top half of the sixth inning.

Making his Red Sox debut in this one, the 31-year-old walked the first man he saw in Trey Mancini on six pitches to put runners at first and second with still just only one out in the frame.

Andriese nearly got out of the jam on one of the very next pitches he threw following that free pass, as he got Anthony Santander to rip a hard-hit groundball to second baseman Enrique Hernandez — playing in a shift — for what looked to be the start of an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play. Just what the doctor ordered.

Instead, Hernandez, also making his Red Sox debut, had a difficult time corralling Santander’s groundball on a hop that allowed all Orioles runners to reach base safely. Hernandez was charged with a fielding error as a result.

That mishap allowed the top of half of the sixth to continue, and the Baltimore bats took full advantage of that when rookie sensation Ryan Mountcastle laced a two-run double off the Green Monster on a 3-2, 93.2 mph inside fastball from Andriese to give his side a 2-0 advantage.

Andriese managed to escape the sixth without yielding anything else and even worked a 1-2-3 seventh , but the damage had already been done.

From there, left-hander Josh Taylor managed to record just one out while surrendering another run on three hits to begin the top of the eighth before Austin Brice came on to clean up after Taylor by retiring the only two hitters he faced in order.

Japanese right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura, another Red Sox making their team debut on Friday, got the call for the ninth, looking to keep Boston’s deficit at a reachable three runs.

Making his major-league debut as well in this one after spending the first 10 years of his professional career overseas, Sawamura looked sharp with his four-seamer, splitter, and slider and allowed just one Oriole to reach base — a two-out double from Freddy Galvis — before getting Pedro Severino to ground out to second to retire the side and wrap up what was a solid 2021 debut.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup was matched up against a familiar foe in Orioles left-hander John Means, who was supposed to get the Opening Day nod for Baltimore last year but was held out of that start due to a “dead arm.”

Fast forward to Opening Day 2021, and Means was clearly on a mission on Friday.

The 27-year-old southpaw served up a leadoff single to the very first hitter he faced in Hernandez, but nullified that by picking off the Sox second baseman at first after he had slipped off the bag while retreating towards it on Means’ throw to first.

As simple as a play as it was, Means picking off Hernandez may have played a pivotal role in the way the rest of Friday’s contest played out.

From that point on, the O’s starter was dealt another leadoff base runner when Xander Bogaerts reached safely on a fielding error to begin the second, but then proceeded to mow down the next 18 Red Sox hitters he faced.

From the bottom of the second through the end of the seventh, Means did not allow a single man to reach base against him. There were certainly some close calls, like when Bobby Dalbec nearly barreled what would turn out to be a flyball out to left field in the sixth, but the All-Star hurler got through seven clean innings unscathed. Quite the way to kick off the new season.

In the eighth, with Means out and lefty reliever Tanner Scott in, the Sox did show some signs of life with Rafael Devers and Christian Vazquez reaching base on a pair of walks.

Vazquez’s free pass came with two outs in the frame, and it brought the tying run to the plate in the form of Dalbec, ever the home run threat.

Rather than put the ball in the air, though, the 25-year-old slugger watched a first-pitch called strike whizz by, then whiffed at a 96 mph fastball on the inner half of the plate, and was caught looking on an 0-2, 97 mph heater on the outer edge of the strike zone to extinguish said threat.

In the ninth, J.D. Martinez collected his first hit of the season on a two-out double off Orioles reliever Cesar Valdez, but it went for naught as Bogaerts followed by lining out to right field to put an end to things on Friday with a final score of 3-0 in favor of Baltimore.

Some notes from this loss:

Alex Cora is now 0-3 on Opening Day as a big-league manager.

From Red Sox Notes:

Next up for the Red Sox, it’s the middle game of what is now a three-game weekend series following Thursday’s rainout.

Saturday’s pitching matchup will feature a pair of right-handers seemingly on the opposite ends of their careers, with Tanner Houck getting the start for Boston and veteran righty Matt Harvey doing the same for Baltimore.

Houck, 24, was not originally going to make the Sox’ Opening Day starting rotation out of spring training, but Eduardo Rodriguez being placed on the injured list resulted in the rookie righty getting called up from the alternate training site on Thursday.

Houck impressed upon getting called up to the majors for the first time last September, posting a 0.53 ERA and .443 OPS against over three starts spanning 17 innings of work. Neither of those three outings were against the Orioles.

Harvey, meanwhile, made the Orioles’ starting rotation out of camp after signing a minor-league deal with the club back in February.

The 32-year-old Connecticut native was once a star in the making with the Mets, but he has since regressed to the point where he is coming off a 2020 campaign in which he surrendered 15 runs over 11 2/3 innings pitched for the Royals.

First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN. Red Sox will be going for their first win of the season.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Opening Day game against Orioles postponed, pushed back to Friday afternoon due to rain

The Red Sox’ Opening Day contest against the Orioles has been postponed due to inclement weather, the team announced Thursday morning.

Boston’s first game of the 2021 season, which was supposed to begin at 2:10 p.m. eastern time Thursday at Fenway Park, has now been pushed back to Friday afternoon at that same time.

“The decision to postpone our first game of the season was not made lightly,” Red Sox President & CEO Sam Kennedy said in a statement. “The built-in off day was created for just this purpose and tomorrow’s forecast for sunshine also factored into our decision. We have been eager to have fans back at Fenway Park for the first time in 18 months and look forward to welcoming everyone back tomorrow under brighter and drier conditions.”

With Thursday’s game being postponed, the Sox will now push back their Opening Day ceremonies to Friday afternoon. First pitch Friday is still scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi is now slated to start for the Sox on Friday. He will be matched up against Orioles left-hander John Means.

First pitch, once again, is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.

Because of this postponement, the Red Sox lose an off day this Friday and will now play seven games in seven days before their “first” scheduled off day of the season next Friday while the team is in Baltimore.

(Picture of Fenway Park: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi named Red Sox’ Opening Day starter after Eduardo Rodriguez was scratched due to dead arm

For the second year in a row, Nathan Eovaldi will be starting for the Red Sox on Opening Day against the Orioles at Fenway Park.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora had originally named Eduardo Rodriguez as the team’s Opening Day starter last week, but those plans have now changed since the left-hander was scratched from that start due to dead arm.

“Nate is going to start Opening Day,” Cora said earlier Friday morning. “He’s in line to do that. And there’s no problem with that. The way we present it to him and the pitching staff, especially in a season that there’s a lot of unknowns, their bodies are going to let us know how we treat them.”

Eovaldi is coming off his best outing of the spring thus far in his last time out against Baltimore on Wednesday at JetBlue Park

The 31-year-old right-hander kept the Orioles off the scoreboard while scattering all of four hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts over 5 2/3 efficient innings of work.

As it turns out, that was Eovaldi’s last in-game action of the spring, as he will now just get some work in in the bullpen a couple of times between now and Thursday.

“He’s built up as far as the pitches and all that,” Cora explained. “He’s ready to go. It’s just a matter of how we manage his week. So probably two bullpens before he faces the Orioles.”

Last year on Opening Day, which came on July 24 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Eovaldi yielded just one earned run on five hits, one walk, and four strikeouts over six strong innings against Baltimore en route to picking up his first winning decision of the 2020 season.

Before Friday’s news, Boston’s starting rotation for their opening weekend series against Baltimore was probably going to look something like this:

  1. Eduardo Rodriguez
  2. Nathan Eovaldi
  3. Garrett Richards

Rodriguez being scratched from Opening Day on account of dead arm has since thrown a wrench in those plans, as Cora explained Friday morning.

“Now we’re kind of like rescheduling everything,” said the Sox skipper. “We’re going over plans. We had it all set up, but now we have to sit down and go over our situation, where we’re at dates-wise, and all that. And we’ll make a decision.

The thing about this is that it’s opening weekend, right?,” he added. “It’s such a big deal because it’s opening weekend. But if this happens during the season, it’s not a big deal. You just skip one guy, you move the other one, and you make decisions based on your schedule and we’re they’re at. But now, because everything was so structured up until now, now we have to scramble a little bit. So, we’ll have more news in the upcoming days.”

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Eduardo Rodriguez scratched from Opening Day start due to dead arm; Nathan Eovaldi will start in left-hander’s place

Eduardo Rodriguez will no longer be starting for the Red Sox on Opening Day next Thursday, manager Alex Cora announced Friday.

The reason being, Rodriguez is dealing with dead arm coming off his fourth start of the spring in his last time out against the Rays on Monday.

The 27-year-old left-hander had put together an impressive spring up until that point, but he lasted just two innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits and two walks to go go along with one strikeout over the course of his most recent outing before tossing two more simulated innings in the bullpen.

“As you guys know, the last one wasn’t a great one as far as his stuff and his body,” Cora said of Rodriguez’s last start. “We’ve been very straightforward with him. His body is going to dictate what we do with him. So his schedule got pushed back. He was supposed to throw a bullpen two days ago. He didn’t throw it. He played catch yesterday. He felt fine. So with the schedule the way it is, he won’t be able to post on Thursday.”

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will start in Rodriguez’s place against the Orioles on Thursday.

Rodriguez came into the spring having missed the entirety of the 2020 campaign after contracting myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) following a bout with COVID-19 over the summer.

The fact that the Venezuelan hurler is coming off something as unique to baseball as myocarditis already meant the Red Sox would monitor him closely, but it turns out this latest setback is not COVID-related.

“I think it’s just dead arm,” Cora explained. “He didn’t feel as strong as the previous outings. Arm-wise, the shoulder, there’s nothing specific there… He pushed hard for Thursday. But I think the smart thing from my end and from our end is to play it smart. Take the decision out of the player, and we made the decision for him.”

Because of these arm issues, Rodriguez had fallen behind in his ramp-up towards April 1 to the point where it no longer made sense for him to get the nod on Opening Day. He was originally named Boston’s Opening Day starter last week.

“It sucks for him,” Cora said empathetically. “Going into ’20, he was supposed to be the Opening Day starter. Going into ’21, we announced it. And now he’s not. But like I told him yesterday, I said, ‘Hey man, the way you throw the ball, the way your career is going, at one point in your career you will be an Opening Day starter — maybe more than once.”

Cora praised Rodriguez for his professionalism in how he took the disappointing news and also acknowledged that it’s unlikely the lefty will start the season on the injured list.

“I think we’re getting ahead of that,” said the Sox skipper. “We’re going to wait for him to show up today and see how he feels after playing catch yesterday. He felt good. Next step is to throw a bullpen, so when he throws a bullpen then we’ll address the situation again.”

That bullpen session for Rodriguez will come some time on Saturday, and Cora said he will more information about Rodriguez’s status moving forward after that.

(Picture of Eduardo Rodriguez: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Nathan Eovaldi, Hunter Renfroe power Red Sox to 2-0 victory over Orioles

The Red Sox improved to 13-8-1 in Grapefruit League play on Wednesday following a 2-0 shutout victory over the Orioles at JetBlue Park.

Nathan Eovaldi made his sixth start of the spring for Boston in this one, and it turned out to be his best start of the spring thus far.

That being the case because over 5 2/3 innings of work, the veteran right-hander kept Baltimore off the scoreboard while scattering four hits and one walk to go along with three strikeouts on the night.

With the help of two twin killings and some fine defensive work from Enrique Hernandez and Hunter Renfroe, Eovaldi did not face more than four hitters in a single frame. He also retired the last three Orioles he faced in order before getting the hook with two outs in the top half of the sixth.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 83 (48 strikes) on Wednesday, the 31-year-old’s fifth and final start of the Grapefruit League campaign should come against the Braves in North Port next Monday.

In relief of Eovaldi, right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura got the call with one out to get in the sixth, and he wound up putting together his most impressive outing of the spring to this point by getting Tyler Nevin to ground out to end the inning before fanning a pair in a 1-2-3 top of the seventh.

Wednesday marked the 32-year-old’s fourth appearance in a Red Sox uniform, and it was his first without registering a walk or allowing a single base runner. Certainly a step in the right direction there.

From there, Adam Ottavino also struck out two Orioles in a perfect inning of relief in the eighth, while left-hander Josh Taylor closed things out and picked up the save by sitting down the only three batters he faced in order with some more assistance from Hernandez.

All in all, Sox pitchers collectively retired the last 13 Orioles batters who came to the plate from the top of the fifth until the end of the game, which ended with a final score of 2-0.

On the other side of things, the Red Sox lineup, which featured the likes of Hernandez, Alex Verdugo, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Marwin Gonzalez, Franchy Cordero, Michael Chavis, and Kevin Plawecki, was matched up against Orioles right-handed pitching prospect Dean Kremer to start things out on Wednesday.

After stranding a handful of base runners over the first two innings of this one, the top of the Boston lineup got things going in the third when Hernandez drew a leadoff walk.

A few moments later, Renfroe came to the plate for his second at-bat of the night after singling in the first, and he again got the best of Kremer — though to a much higher degree — by crushing a two-run home run deep to the opposite field.

That two-run shot — Renfroe’s third of the spring — put the Sox up 2-0 early, and that would prove to be all they needed to secure the 2-0 victory over the Orioles on Wednesday.

Some notes from this win:

After a slow start to the Grapefruit League campaign, Alex Verdugo put together his first multi-hit performance of the year in this one. The 24-year-old went 2-for-4 with a pair of singles while playing all nine innings in center field.

Franchy Cordero, who started in left and hit out of the seven-hole, went 1-for-3 with a hard-hit single to right-center field. He is 3-for-7 with a walk in his first three exhibition games with the Sox.

Next up for the Red Sox, they’ll host the crosstown rival Twins at JetBlue Park on Thursday night — their second consecutive contest under the lights.

Left-hander Martin Perez will be making his fourth start of the spring for Boston, and he will be matched up against right-hander Randy Dobnak for Minnesota.

First pitch Thursday is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. eastern time. The game will be broadcast on NESN Plus and will air on MLB Network on delay.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Rule 5 pick Garrett Whitlock shaping up to be potential ‘secret weapon’ for Red Sox pitching staff

It wasn’t too long ago that Garrett Whitlock was at a crossroads in his professional baseball career.

The lanky right-hander — originally selected by the Yankees in the 18th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of University of Alabama — had his 2019 season cut short after undergoing Tommy John surgery that July.

He didn’t know it at the time, but Whitlock had pitched in his last game as a member of the Yankees organization on July 3, 2019 as his recovery from Tommy John coincided with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The deadline for clubs to add Rule 5-eligble players to their 40-man rosters came and went in November, and Whitlock — who was eligible — was not added by New York, meaning he was now eligible for the 2020 Rule 5 Draft.

The following month, the 24-year-old was taken off the board by the Red Sox, breathing new life into his baseball journey as a kid from Snellville, Ga.

By being selected by Boston in the Rule 5 Draft, Whitlock was now tasked with making Boston’s Opening Day roster out of spring training and sticking there for the entirety of the 2021 season or he would otherwise have to be offered back to his former club.

Prior to joining the Red Sox over the winter, Whitlock had primarily served as a starter in his time with the Yankees organization, but given the fact his new team is flush with starting pitching depth, a spot in Boston’s Opening Day rotation was essentially out of the question.

Instead, the 6-foot-5, 190 pound righty was to be made a swingman of sorts who could pitch multiple innings out of the bullpen or make a spot start or two when needed.

He was to still be stretched out over the course of the spring, but not with the intentions of being a fulltime starter once the season begins.

Thus far, handing down that role to Whitlock has netted nothing but positive results at big-league camp in Fort Myers.

Through his first four Grapefruit League appearances, the Georgia native has yielded just one earned run on eight hits, no walks, and 12 strikeouts over nine total innings of work, most recently fanning five Rays hitters over three scoreless, no-hit frames at JetBlue Park on Friday afternoon.

“What Garrett did today, that was impressive,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “But he’s been doing that the whole spring. It’s a good fastball. He’s able to elevate with it late in counts, and it was a great day for him.”

For someone who had not pitched in a competitive environment in nearly two years, the way in which Whitlock has gone about his business on and off the mound has stood out to Cora.

“He was hungry to compete,” said the Sox skipper. “He hasn’t been able to compete in a while. And he’s bought into the concept of the things that we do here, and he’s executing. He’s very talented… He watches every bullpen, he watches the B games, he goes to sim games, and he goes to the dugout when he’s not pitching. That makes you a better baseball player, and in his case it makes him a better pitcher.

“I think it’s that confidence that he has,” Cora added. “First of all, we trust him, right? Because we decided to pick him in the Rule 5 after coming from surgery. Second, with the things that we’re preaching and what he’s doing, he has to feel great. But one thing about him, he’ll show up tomorrow and he’ll ask a question: ‘What can I do better?’ That’s the key of this thing and he’s done that the whole camp.”

Working the sixth through eighth innings of Friday’s contest against the Rays, Whitlock, donning the No. 72, was one of three pitchers who relieved starter Nathan Eovaldi.

A fellow right-hander who knows the ins-and-outs of Tommy John surgery, it’s safe to say Eovaldi has been impressed with what he’s seen from Whitlock so far at camp.

“I’m very excited for him,” Eovaldi said during his in-game media availability. “The first time I saw him throw at spring training, it was early in camp and I was impressed. He’s got a great changeup, he’s got great command, he’s quiet, he’s very quiet and determined to be a part of this team, and he’s going about his business the right way.

“So I’m not surprised with what he’s been able to do out there on the field just because of the way he’s handling himself in and around the clubhouse and out there in the bullpen,” the fireballer added. “He’s kind of our secret weapon right there, so he’s looking great.”

Whitlock himself is not taking anything for granted this spring. He explained on Friday how undergoing Tommy John surgery changed his perspective on multiple facets of his life — including his faith — and how he is just overjoyed to be playing baseball for a living.

“When you have an operation like Tommy John, it’s never given that you’re going to play again,” he said. “I promised to myself that if I was going to get a second chance and I was going to be back out on the field, I would never take a day for granted again. Because every little kid’s dream is to play professional baseball, and I don’t care if it’s in the [Gulf Coast League] level or the major-league level, I get to play a kid’s game for a living. It’s so much fun.”

Given how he has performed this spring, Whitlock, as previously mentioned, is a sure bet to make the Sox’ Opening Day roster as a swingman/hybrid-type reliever who can also start when necessary.

Regardless of what role he undertakes beginning April 1, though, Whitlock will just be going out there to do his job, or in other words, get outs. That is something that was drilled into him during his time at UAB.

“My college coach told me the best pitching advice I’ve ever had,” he recalled. “And that was: ‘When they hand you the ball to go get outs, you go get outs until they come take the ball away from you.’ And so whatever role that is, that’s always going to be my mindset.”

(Picture of Garrett Whitlock: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi eclipses 100 mph 10 times in second start of spring: ‘When he gets to the ballpark, everything is at full speed’

Through the first three innings of his second start of the spring on Sunday afternoon, Nathan Eovaldi was moving right along.

The veteran right-hander had retired 9 of the first 11 Twins hitters he faced at Hammond Stadium, with the only damage coming on a leadoff home run off the bat of Byron Buxton to begin the bottom half of the third.

After escaping the third while stranding another base runner, Eovaldi headed into his fourth and final frame of work with a respectable pitch count of 41 as he looked to end his outing on a positive note.

Instead, the 31-year-old hurler saw Minnesota tack on an additional three runs on an additional five hits — including a hard-hit two-run double from Miguel Sano and softly-hit RBI single from Andrelton Simmons — before eventually retiring the side by getting Max Kepler to ground out to second.

At the end of the day, Eovaldi finished with a final pitch count of 65 (41 strikes) while yielding four earned runs on seven hits and zero walks to go along with three punchouts over those four innings of work.

Among those 65 pitches Eovaldi threw on Sunday, approximately 30 were four-seam fastballs, and approximately 10 of those fastballs registered on the radar gun at 100 mph or more, per Baseball Savant.

“I felt really good,” Eovaldi told reporters following his outing. “I’ve been doing a lot of work on my mechanics and my mechanics feel like they’re falling into place really well. I don’t feel like I’m fighting myself as much anymore. I threw some decent splitters today. My curveball felt really good. I threw some really good sliders today as well. I felt like I was locating the ball really well and attacking the zone and that’s what I came out there to do today. To work fast, get first-pitch strikes, and keep the pressure on them.”

Between the Sox and Twins, nine pitchers in total took the mound at Hammond Stadium on Sunday. Among those nine, Eovaldi was responsible for the 30 fastest pitches.

On the surface, that seems like a reassuring point, but it also brings into question if Eovaldi would be better off to save some of those high-octane bullets for later in the regular season as opposed to turning to them now in Grapefruit League play.

“It’s hard for us to slow him down,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of his flame-throwing starter. “That’s who he is. When he gets to the ballpark, everything is at full speed. We understand that, and we have to live with it. He’s in a great spot physically. He’s made some adjustments in the offseason. You see it, it’s full blast from the get-go. But, it’s something that that’s who he is, and we’re not going to change him.”

As for what went wrong in the fourth inning Sunday, Eovaldi attributed those struggles to just how dangerous the Twins lineup can be, but he also acknowledged that his performance as a whole was a step in the right direction heading into the new season.

“Other than that fourth inning, today felt really good going out there,” the Houston native said. “I think I had one 3-2 count, and that was to Sano in the first or second inning. Other than that, pitches felt really good. It’s just kind of now mixing them. I want the splitter to be a little bit better than it is now. But, everything else feels really good after today.”

Eovaldi has now recorded five strikeouts through his first two starts and 5 1/3 innings pitched of the spring. His next Grapefruit League outing could come against the Braves in North Port on Saturday.

“The more he pounds the strike zone with his stuff, he’s going to be successful,” said Cora. “And we like that.”

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Nathan Eovaldi named 2021 Jimmy Fund Captain

Red Sox right-hander Nathan Eovaldi has been named the Jimmy Fund captain for the 2021 season, the organization announced Tuesday.

Eovaldi, who has spent the last 2 1/2 seasons with the Red Sox, will become Jimmy Fund Captain for the first time.

The 31-year-old hurler takes over for former Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland, who was traded to the Padres last August before signing a one-year deal with the Athletics in February.

As Jimmy Fund Captain, “Eovaldi will help encourage fans to step up to the plate and help strike out cancer by getting involved with the Jimmy Fund.”

His responsibilities include: attending fundraising events, visiting patients, and acting as an ambassador for Dana-Farber’s research and care mission.

Boston’s previous two Jimmy Fund Captains — Moreland and Brock Holt — were nominated for the Roberto Clemente Award on at least one occasion in their time with the Sox.

The partnership between the Jimmy Fund and the Red Sox dates back to 1953 when team owner Tom Yawkey “announced that his team would adopt the Jimmy Fund as its official charity and continue the tradition started by the Braves” after the then-Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee.

Since that time, the Sox’ relationship with the Jimmy Fund grew to a point where an annual radio-telethon has been held each year at Fenway Park since 2002.

The annual WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon unfortunately had to be cancelled last summer due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the event has still raised more than $57 million to support pediatric and adult cancer care and research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute since its inception.

For more information about the Jimmy Fund, click here.

For more information about the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon, click here.

(Picture of Nathan Eovaldi: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)