Red Sox

Nathan Eovaldi elbow injury illustrates risk associated with him, but it was a risk worth taking

Nathan Eovaldi elbow injury illustrates risk associated with him, but it was a risk worth taking

OK, first of all, that came out of nowhere. Nathan Eovaldi delivered his best start of the season on Tuesday in New York, limiting the Yankees to three hits and one unearned run in six innings. He hit 99.9 mph and left with a 3-1 lead before Brett Gardner's grand slam left us bemoaning a lost April.

Eovaldi transitioned from that performance to "he can't straighten his elbow" in the span of 48 hours, which illustrates the risk each of Eovaldi's employers has assumed since he entered the league.

He is not just injury-prone, he's surgery prone. He underwent a similar elbow procedure last March that cost him the first two months of the season. He's also a veteran of two Tommy John surgeries, though one of them was during his junior year in high school. This time around, per USA Today, doctors are expected to shave the bone in his right elbow to keep any more loose bodies from appearing.

Those who wondered what the Red Sox were thinking when they signed Eovaldi to a four-year, $68 million contract this winter should feel free to gloat. I considered him a risk worth taking, even knowing he could encounter moments like this, because the upside is so high.

He showed what kind of difference-maker he could be last October, when he delivered the signature moment of the postseason, albeit in a losing effort, tossing six innings of stellar relief in Game 3 of the World Series before being walked off in the 18th inning.

He timed his breakthrough perfectly, just weeks before hitting free agency, and if the Red Sox wanted to keep him, they were going to have to pay him. The $17 million annually they committed might sound high for his track record -- he's sub-.500 lifetime with a 4.21 ERA -- but not his potential. Still only 29, Eovaldi is at an age when pitchers can figure things out. The risk was that he'd go bust, and Dave Dombrowski must be swallowing hard this evening, but the reward was even greater.

Maybe it still will be, but it's going to have to wait.

Finally: who replaces him? Manager Alex Cora said right-hander Hector Velazquez will start the next couple of turns through the rotation, but who goes after that is unclear.

The best prospect at Triple-A is right-hander Mike Shawaryn, a 2016 fifth-rounder out of Maryland who's 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 22.1 innings.

The most intriguing name is left-hander Darwinzon Hernandez, who's 1-1 with a 1.80 ERA but has only made two starts at Double A. The team's best pitching prospect, Hernandez hasn't yet demonstrated a command of the strike zone (7 BBs in 10 IP), so it's unlikely he's ready, but to use this word again, he's got the most potential.

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MLB Rumors: RHP Sergio Romo drawing interest from Red Sox

MLB Rumors: RHP Sergio Romo drawing interest from Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox reportedly have their eye on a veteran reliever in free agency.

Right-hander Sergio Romo is drawing significant interest from multiple teams including Boston, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network. A deal is expected to get done during the Winter Meetings this week.

Tomase: Are Sox interested in bringing back Porcello?

Romo played for the Rays in 2017 and 2018 when new Red Sox Chief Baseball Officer Chaim Bloom was in the Tampa Bay front office. The 36-year-old was used as an "opener" in five games during that '18 campaign.

Last season with the Miami Marlins and Minnesota Twins, Romo tallied 20 saves and posted a 3.43 ERA in appearances.

For his 12-year career, Romo boasts a 2.92 ERA and 1.06 WHIP. He was a World Series champion with the San Francisco Giants in 2012 and an All-Star in 2013.

Tomase: Sox offseason plans could come into focus this week>>>

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MLB Rumors: Former Red Sox OF Daniel Nava pitching comeback, trying to beat odds again

MLB Rumors: Former Red Sox OF Daniel Nava pitching comeback, trying to beat odds again

SAN DIEGO — Daniel Nava is no stranger to long odds.

The Red Sox famously bought the former college equipment manager, sight-unseen, for a dollar out of independent ball in 2008. The late bloomer then bashed his way to the big leagues two years later at age 27, launching a grand slam in the first pitch of his first at-bat before playing a key supporting role in the 2013 title.

Now closing in on his 37th birthday, Nava hasn't appeared in the majors since 2017 with the Phillies. He signed with the Pirates in 2018, but a back injury necessitated surgery, which led to an infection, and he ended up spending 18 months on the sidelines.

He made a comeback with the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent American Association last year, hitting .288 in 71 games. That was enough to convince him he's not done, and so this week he's wandering the halls of the Manchester Grand Hyatt at baseball's winter meetings like any other job seeker, albeit one with seven years of service time and a World Series ring.

"It's a funny turn of events to bring it almost full circle to where you're doing the same thing you did at the start," Nava told NBC Sports Boston. "I remember when I sat in (Mike) Hazen's office (in 2008) and he more or less said, 'Why should we keep you?' I had to sell myself on the spot. Fortunately, I don't think it mattered what I said, because they were going to give me a shot. That's what I'm hoping for right now, is just a shot again. It's not like I haven't been here before."

Nava carved out a solid career with the Red Sox, especially given where he started. The 5-10, 195-pound switch hitter spent parts of five seasons in Boston, delivering some memorable hits along the way. In addition to the grand slam off of Philly's Joe Blanton in his debut, he also blasted the game-winning homer vs. the Royals in the emotionally charged return to Fenway after the Marathon bombings in 2013.

"No one saw that team coming," Nava said. "We knew how good we were in that clubhouse, but I don't think anyone outside that clubhouse, especially after that previous season, saw it. We knew we had something special."

Nava said he's fully recovered from the discectomy that sidelined him for all of 2018 and half of 2019. He might have retired to his offseason home in Nashville, but those 71 games of independent ball convinced him otherwise.

"I wanted to see if A, I could still do it, and then B, would a team be interested in me?" Nava said. "A was possible, and now B is what I'm here to trying to see — if I can get one more final look, one more shot."

He's representing himself on this mission alongside fellow independent leaguer Shawn O'Malley, a Kansas City resident and 31-year-old former utilityman with the Angels and Mariners who hustled to San Diego directly from a wedding two hours outside Atlanta to pitch a comeback of his own.

"I do have an agent," Nava said. "But I need to do this in person, so teams can see that physically I'm not dead."

Nava said he has reached out via text to contacts in multiple organizations, including the Red Sox. As if on cue, a member of the team's video staff stopped Nava in the lobby to wish him well.

"More or less text communication, nothing face to face," he said. "Obviously a return back to where everything started would be meaningful, but I understand how this business works."

And to that end, he's willing to start all over in the minors, if that's what it takes, and bring this journey full circle.

"I want a shot," he said. "And I'll take whatever — and I mean whatever — I can get. I'm not going to be a veteran who says, 'How dare I go to the minor leagues?' Having been in a position like this so many years ago, it brings me back to that point of just having a hunger and a desire to want to play, and that's where I'm at right now."