The Boston Red Sox's decision to bring Nathan Eovaldi out of the bullpen when he returns from injury has been met with a flurry of criticism.
The term "panic move" has been used to describe the situation. But the fact of the matter is the Red Sox need much better performances in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings if they're going to earn a playoff spot in the American League this year. Boston's bullpen has blown a major league-leading 16 saves and has a 4.37 ERA as of Tuesday.
If Eovaldi is the best option to stabilize the situation, it's worth a gamble.
Red Sox manager Alex Cora explained Tuesday during an interview with MLB Network Radio the process behind making the decision to have Eovaldi come out of the bullpen.
“We’ve been talking about (Eovaldi to the bullpen) for the last few weeks, the timing, for him to contribute as soon as possible, it makes sense for everyone. He's a competitor," Cora said. "You guys know him and how much pride he takes into competing and helping his team. We saw it last year towards the end and what he did in the bullpen. It was an ongoing dialog the last 15 days. We got together and he gave us his blessing. ... We are not closing out the possibility of him starting later this season. Having him throwing innings in games and helping us out that way, I think it makes sense right now. That's the route we're going to go."
Does Eovaldi have what it takes to succeed in high-leverage situations late in games?
“We’re about to find out because this is a new role for him. He didn't close games last year. He just came out of the bullpen to help us out in the seventh or eighth inning," Cora said. "I think stuff-wise, everyone knows where he's at. That fastball with the combination of his pitches. He's going to attack the zone. He doesn't shy away from it. He'll embrace it. One thing is fore sure, we're going to take care of him. I do feel he's going to contribute with everybody. Everyone says 'closer.' He'll help in the bullpen. We'll make that decision when we have to. He's coming off injury/surgery. Putting him in one role and go from there, it will benefit us, but at the same time it's going to benefit him as far as his health. It's very structured, and we can use him that way. Hopefully he can contribute the way we expect and we can take off."
It's interesting Cora wouldn't totally commit to Eovaldi being the closer. He still seems undecided on what Eovaldi's exact role will be. Either way, the Red Sox need to figure out their bullpen mess ASAP. If Eovaldi works out, that's great for the Sox. If this experiment fails, the trade market might be the only route that can save Boston's postseason hopes.
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