Red Sox

Nathan Eovaldi bullpen experiment can work for Red Sox -- just ask All-Star Mike Minor

Nathan Eovaldi bullpen experiment can work for Red Sox -- just ask All-Star Mike Minor

Mike Minor knows what it's like to make a move to the bullpen out of necessity, and the Texas Rangers' All-Star left-hander has some advice for how the Boston Red Sox should handle Nathan Eovaldi:

With care.

"If he listens to his body and they respect what he says," Minor said, "then I think he'll be all right."

A promising young starter with the Atlanta Braves at the start of the decade, Minor underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in 2015, missing the next two seasons. He made 10 rehab starts in 2016, but couldn't recover after throwing three or four innings.

When the Kansas City Royals signed him in 2017, Minor knew he'd need to move to relief. The results were tremendous. He went 6-6 with a 2.55 ERA and six saves in 65 appearances, striking out a career high 10.2 batters per nine innings. That performance earned him a three-year deal with the Rangers, who returned him to the rotation, and Minor repaid their gamble by making the 2019 All-Star team after going 8-4 with a 2.54 ERA and league-leading two complete games.

But focusing on his season as a reliever, the 31-year-old former college teammate of David Price relayed some lessons the Red Sox can apply as Eovaldi transitions to closing following April elbow surgery.

"It was a constant conversation of how do you feel each day and how do you feel multiple innings, multiple up and downs, multiple days, whatever it was," Minor said at the All-Star Game in Cleveland. "But that was essential for my success and where I am now, because at the time I just couldn't handle it."

Reaching the point where he felt comfortable telling his manager and coaches he wasn't available wasn't easy for Minor, and Eovaldi won't have a lot of time to feel out the process down the stretch.

"At the beginning, I kind of wanted to be a regular dude and I found myself still fatigued a little bit and telling them yes anyway, and once I did that a couple of times, I knew how my body was reacting," Minor said.

He realized that he could tell pregame or even when he woke up in the morning whether he'd be available that day, but it took some trial and error.

"There's a couple of times where you're sore, but you're like, 'I'll just pitch through it. I'm going to be a normal dude and throw through it,'" Minor said. "And then I get in the game and they're depending on you to be one of the guys coming out of the bullpen in situations with guys on base or whatever, and then if I didn't feel good, it's like, 'Man, what am I doing? I'm hurting the team.'"

Minor soon found his sweet spot, and then built from there.

"If they threw me one inning and it was one time up, get warm, go in the game, pitch, and then I'm done, then I could go multiple days," he said. "But if it was get warm in the bullpen, go out there get one out, sit down, get back up, go back out, pitch an inning, sit down, go back and out and get a lefty, that kind of the thing, then the up-and-down kind of got me."

The Red Sox have eschewed the use of a traditional closer all season, but Minor considers it a must if they want to get the most out of Eovaldi. And the more traditional, the better.

"They shouldn't give him the long relief role. That just negates everything," Minor said. "So if he's a late-inning guy and he's only going one inning and only getting three outs and they're only warming him up if they're winning, then he should be in a lot better situation than a guy that might have to warm up a couple of times, get hot, sit down, get hot again. That kills you out there. Fans and even coaches don't realize it. If you've never pitched before, you don't realize how much you're abusing yourself and exerting energy and getting sore the next day.

"If he's in that situation, that's going to be the best one, even though he's going to be high leverage. It's going to be him probably throwing 100 out there or whatever."

While the Red Sox are concerned about the here and now, there's also the longer-term question of Eovaldi's return to the rotation, which is what earned him a four-year, $68 million contract in the first place. Minor has insight into that process, too.

As the 2017 season wore on, he realized he didn't need to close the door on starting, because he was feeling stronger.

"I sensed it because they put me out there in a tie game and we didn't really have anyone left, and there were a lot of times I went two innings, a couple of times I went three," he said. "And then I woke up the next couple of days and felt fine, and that's what made me think, OK, maybe I can do this now. Maybe my body has acclimated itself and I know what kind of soft tissue work I need, what kind of shoulder workouts I need, maybe I'm ready for that.'

"When I signed with Texas, they gave me the six-man rotation thing last year, so they kind of told me about that. We might skip you, ease you in this, so I said this is the best situation for me. We did that last year and this year it's just hey, go out there and do your thing and it's been great so far."

So if the Red Sox navigate the situation delicately, Minor sees no reason why Eovaldi can't succeed in the bullpen and then rejoin the rotation in 2020.

"If he's healthy and feels good, it could be a good thing for him," he said. "Even though he signed that contract and wants to start, get that full value out of him, if it's half a season or a third of a season in the bullpen, he's still going to provide a lot of value, just like he did in the playoffs."

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Ex-Red Sox star Mookie Betts has three-home run game for Dodgers

Ex-Red Sox star Mookie Betts has three-home run game for Dodgers

On the same night that the Boston Red Sox fell 17-8 to the Tampa Bay Rays and saw their losing streak extended to four games, their ex-star outfielder Mookie Betts made history with his new team.

Betts was simply on another level for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, crushing not one...

Not two...

But three home runs vs. the San Diego Padres to tie the MLB record for the most three-home run games ever (six).

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The 2018 American League MVP is still doing MVP things, much to the chagrin of Red Sox fans. It certainly doesn't help matters that it's been a disastrous 2020 campaign for Boston, who fell to 6-13 on the season after Thursday's loss.

For a look back at Betts' five 3-home run games with the Red Sox, you can take a trip down memory lane here.

It's a race to the bottom, and based on last four days, Red Sox are winning

It's a race to the bottom, and based on last four days, Red Sox are winning

Watching a team disintegrate as badly as the Red Sox, there's a temptation to say we've run out of words to describe their putrefaction. But that would be false. I mean, putrefaction is a pretty good word. There are plenty of words.

But why waste them?

It is becoming abundantly clear that, top to bottom, the Red Sox do not care about this season. Ownership never cared, which it proved not only by dumping Mookie Betts, but also with its complicity in the league's scheme to conduct as short a season as possible in order to limit the prorated salaries players could collect.

When fans are desperate for the return of sports and your collective goal isn't raising the country's spirits but crushing the union, then this maggoty dumpster of a season is what you deserve.

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The front office wasn't really allowed to care, since it was given a roll of quarters in November and told to make it last until the luxury tax reset. But even accepting the financial constraints under which Chaim Bloom and Co. have operated, urgency isn't the first word that springs to mind when evaluating their response to the worst starting staff in the majors. Even if Eduardo Rodriguez hadn't contracted COVID, we'd still be looking at Ryan Weber and an opener comprising 40 percent of the rotation.

Genial manager Ron Roenicke cares, but he's marching to his doom like a raggedy fife player. Not since Bobby Valentine in 2012 have the Red Sox been led by such an obvious one-and-done mark. At least Bobby V. deserved it. Roenicke never had a chance.

Given all of the above, can anyone blame the players for not caring? Ownership doesn't want to pay them. Management has done little to support them beyond signing every available pitcher with an ERA of 11.00. If they opted out en masse tomorrow, we should applaud their pragmatism.

There's no reason for them to care, which means there's no reason for us to care. And just in case that's unclear, we have dozens of 7:30 starts to remind us of how little we matter in all of this, unless you're one of those fans who likes their baseball played poorly, and at 11:28 p.m.

It all came to a head in Thursday's finale of a four-game sweep with Tampa that may end up being the defining moment of this miserable campaign.

The Rays entered the series hitting .208. They left hitting .246. Thursday's 17-8 defeat included a little bit of everything, none of it good.

A wayward drone interrupted play in the third inning and only qualified as about the eighth-weirdest occurrence. Two Red Sox pitchers faced six batters in an inning without recording an out. The starting second baseman began the ninth on the mound, only to leave when a line drive drilled him below the knee. He was replaced by the backup catcher, whose spot behind the plate was taken by the utility infielder, which made room at second base for the starting catcher.

Got all that? No? It doesn't matter.

Third baseman Rafael Devers made three brutal errors. Backup catcher Kevin Plawecki finished the day with a .474 average and 0.00 ERA. Former 19th round pick Kyle Hart made his debut and failed to retire a batter in the third. Reliever Marcus Walden duplicated the feat in the sixth. Jose Peraza took the line drive to the leg, Plawecki moved to the mound, Tzu-Wei Lin debuted at catcher, and Christian Vazquez finished his day off at second.

It was something you'd expect to see in a softball game between Jimmy's Pub and the Hannaford meat room. "I think once Peraza got smoked in the knee, that's about as bad as it gets," a weary Roenicke said.

If only that were the case. The Red Sox open a four-game series in New York on Friday with a bullpen day, followed by Nathan Eovaldi, followed by a mystery 4-A arm that's undoubtedly terrible, followed by Martin Perez, who's suddenly the ace. That sounds like a recipe for getting worse.

There are plenty more ways to describe this weeping sore of a season, but what's the point? The 2020 campaign can't end quickly enough, so allow me to speak for everyone -- from fans to players to cleaning crews to front office to media to ownership -- with the two words you've all been longing to hear:

We surrender.