Red Sox

Red Sox

NEW YORK -- The issue surfaces periodically, but it ignores some very basic math. So, let's just make this clear:

The Red Sox are not paying Nathan Eovaldi $17 million a year to pitch in relief.

Yes, he has the stuff to close, thanks to a 100-mph fastball and devastating cutter. And yes, he was outstanding in relief last October. But the Red Sox have always viewed Eovaldi as a starter, and no amount of uncertainty at the back of their bullpen will change that.

Eovaldi threw a 22-pitch simulated game on Friday vs. teammates Michael Chavis and Brock Holt, on top of 32 pitches in the bullpen. He's still working his way back from April surgery to remove loose bodies from his elbow, and he'll likely need at least one rehab start before he returns.

In the meantime, manager Alex Cora was asked about a particularly stubborn train of thought among some commentators that Eovaldi could end up in the bullpen.

"No," the manager responded flatly.

The question comes from a reasonable place. With the Red Sox struggling at times in the ninth inning with no established closer, they could be in the market for someone to fill that role. Why not keep the solution in house?

Well, for one thing, have you seen their fifth starters? Hector Velazquez, Ryan Weber and Co. haven't exactly shone. For another, when Eovaldi hit free agency last fall after a monster postseason, multiple teams inquired about signing him as a closer. Eovaldi wanted to start and the Red Sox shared that desire, which is how he ended up in Boston for four years and $68 million.

 

"I'm not 100 percent sure but I think that was part of the negotiation," Cora said. "Dave [Dombrowski] is the GM. But I think that's what he wanted to do, too. He had some conversations with other teams that saw him as a reliever. He enjoys starting. At the same time, he enjoys winning. I don't know. I think that was part of the decision he made for him to come here."

Eovaldi has only topped 150 innings twice in his career, including 2014 with the Marlins, when he fell one out shy of 200 innings pitched. He's 0-0 with a 6.00 ERA in four starts this year and hopes to return relatively soon.

"I'm very anxious and definitely ready," he said. "Just want to make sure we don't have any setbacks."

When he does return, it won't be in relief. All but eight of his 160 regular season appearances have been starts, and there's a reason he'll make $68 million over the next four years. It's to take the ball every fifth day and try to hand a lead to the bullpen.

 

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