FORT MYERS, Fla. — Nate Eovaldi is not easing into the season. He hit 99 miles-per-hour three times in the first inning of Sunday’s 7-6 loss against the Twins and averaged 97.9 m.p.h. with his fastball in the short outing.
“First game I was just excited,” said Eovaldi, who acknowledged that pitching in front of fans for the first time since 2019 had a role in that.
“Even driving into the ballpark, there’s a line of cars waiting to get in. They say 24 percent [capacity], you don’t know what that’s going to look like. With everybody spaced out it looked like a full ballpark.”
Eovaldi lasted only 1⅓ innings as he threw 38 pitches, 23 for strikes. He allowed two runs on two hits, struck out two and walked one.
“I felt like I was rushing through my delivery,” the righthander said.
Eovaldi typically arrives at camp ready to go. He has access to a Rapsodo device in the offseason and monitors his velocity as he prepares. So he was not surprised to flirt with triple digits in his first game.
“I was feeling good. I’ve been feeling good all camp,” Eovaldi said. “I know the velocity has been there. That’s something I don’t have to worry about. For me it’s tempo.”
Eovaldi will get five days off before he starts again.
Kiké Hernández hit leadoff and was 1 for 2. He has batted first only 57 times in his career including 23 times with the Dodgers in 2019.
“We’ll see where it takes us,” said manager Alex Cora, who has challenged Hernández to be a better player and prove he’s more than a super sub. “This is a guy, he can impact the baseball. He can hit extra-base hits. I do believe there’s more there.”
Hernández has a career .313 on-base percentage, which doesn’t suggest he would be a good candidate to lead off. Alex Verdugo led off 33 times last season and had a .362 OBP
Getting a look
Spring training lineups usually don’t have much significance, especially early on. But it was noteworthy Michael Gettys started in left field. He grounded out and walked.
The 25-year-old is in camp as a non-roster player after being signed to a minor league contract in November. Gettys was a second-round pick of the Padres out of high school in 2014 but had a .316 on-base percentage over six seasons.
Gettys had 84 homers in 671 minor league games for San Diego but struck out 893 times.
“Very athletic. Good defender,” Cora said. “Offensive-wise, a lot of power [but] swing and miss, too. I just like the athlete.”
Trial by fire
The players not on the travel roster had live batting practice at Fenway South. The sessions included 18-year-old Nick Yorke facing Matt Barnes, Darwinzon Hernandez and Tanner Houck. Yorke made good contact on Houck and didn’t appear to be overmatched by Barnes or Hernandez. . . . Hirokazu Sawamura should be in uniform by Wednesday once he clears the MLB protocols. Franchy Cordero is in the Dominican Republic waiting to be taken off the COVID-19 injured list. He should arrive later in the week . . . There are grass berms in left field and down the right field line at Hammond Stadium. To encourage social distancing, the Twins painted white rectangles on the grass and groups of three or four fans were directed to, essentially, stay in bounds.