This is Nathan Eovaldi's big chance

Rob Bradford
July 15, 2020 - 7:25 am
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It's not like Nathan Eovaldi hasn't had his moments. He wouldn't be living life with a four-year, $68 million contract if he hadn't.

But there has always been something missing. That no-holds-barred view of the pitcher that says "You are a bonafide top-of-the-rotation ace."

Now, in the middle of the most uncertain of times, Eovaldi has the opportunity to define himself.

As of right now, the 30-year-old will be the Red Sox' Opening Day starter on July 24 against the Orioles, taking over for Eduardo Rodriguez, who is better after coming down with COVID-19 but still not quite ready for a return. No Chris Sale. No David Price. No Rick Porcello. No Rodriguez. As we sit here, Eovaldi is the closest thing this team has to an established starter so he will be getting the call.

Now comes the interesting part. What is the guy who throws 100 mph and displays the grit and guile his 2018 World Series teammates still talk about going to do with the opportunity?

"I feel like I’m ready to go," Eovaldi said after his four-inning intrasquad performance at Fenway Park Tuesday. "Again, I went 82 pitches today. I’m not going out there and taking it easy either. I’m throwing all of my pitches, I’m using my mix, I feel like I’m ready. I’ll have 100 pitches or whatever they want, let me go."

That's the thing about Eovaldi. He is always seemingly ready to go.

The righty's attitude and stuff have never been a question. It's just been uncovering the kind of consistency that will deliver the pitcher the Red Sox paid for prior to the 2019 season. And let's face it, both the player and his team need the emergence now more than ever.

Fortunately for all parties involved this scenario might be the perfect one for Eovaldi, who hasn't made more than 21 starts since 2015. He is a pitcher who always seems to be ready to hit the ground running when the bell rings -- whether it's to start spring training or a regular-season -- and it's not as if the Red Sox will be needing him to be counted on for 200 innings. This is a sprint, one which might just serve as a trampoline for this pitcher's career.

Remember 2018? Not the postseason, which included two dominant starts and a few unforgettable relief appearances on the way to a 1.61 ERA in 22 1/3 innings. But the 14 starts he had to begin that season, which resulted in a 3.62 ERA and .238 batting average against. Within that stretch -- that could be a similar span of time to what he is about to experience -- there were six starts in which he allowed one or fewer runs.

Still, as much as we can identify the what-was and what-might-be, because of injuries and uneven production Eovaldi isn't entering this thing with the kind of benefit of the doubt afforded most Opening Day starters. Sure, once again he has looked the part, both throughout a dominant Spring Training 1.0 and this recent go-round at Fenway. Yet it felt the same way coming into 2019 before he was derailed once again by an elbow injury.

Now comes what seems like the kind of opportunity all that potential and perseverance has paved the way for. This is Eovaldi's big chance and the Red Sox really, really need him to take advantage of it.

"I feel like I'm ready," Eovaldi stated.