FORT MYERS, Fla. — New Twins third baseman Gio Urshela has experience facing Nate Eovaldi. Over the course of three seasons as a Yankee, Urshela got to know Eovaldi’s tendencies and how the Sox starter likes to weaponize his full arsenal of pitches.
But in the second inning of the Twins’ Grapefruit League matchup Wednesday against the Red Sox, Urshela was confused after seeing the spin on a specific pitch, according to manager Alex Cora. So, he stepped out of the box and uttered a question to catcher Christian Vázquez:
“Was that a slider?” Urshela asked.
Vázquez nodded his head, confirming Urshela’s observation.
Eovaldi implemented a five-pitch mix last season that took his game to another stratosphere. That, and a healthy season, helped turn Eovaldi into a first-time All-Star. He ultimately finished with a 3.75 ERA in 32 starts as the Red Sox ace. But he had little feel for his slider, a pitch he threw the third-most behind his four-seam fastball and curveball, respectively.
“I like the mix because of the velocity change in each pitch, but the slider I felt like was the most inconsistent,” Eovaldi noted. “It would be a slurve at times, then a little loopy. I wanted to get something that’s coming in hard and has a little bit more depth.”
Ironically, the slider was one of Eovaldi’s go-to weapons when he first entered the league in 2011. But after recovering from Tommy John surgery and returning in 2018, Eovaldi once again had little feel for the slider and virtually dumped it from his repertoire.
The stubbornness in constantly trying to reshape that pitch is another example of Eovaldi’s evolution as a pitcher. It’s a part of his arsenal once more and he has conviction when he throws it. Now, the key objective is to get the slider to be a bit harder and down in the zone.
“The willingness to keep evolving, and keep getting better, that’s impressive,” Sox manager Alex Cora said. That’s why he is where he is and he’s one of the leaders in the clubhouse.”
Eovaldi pitched four scoreless frames Wednesday in a game the Twins won, 10-4.
Devers confirms no extension talks
The Red Sox and third baseman Rafael Devers avoided arbitration Tuesday, agreeing to a $11.2 million deal for the 2022 season.
Devers, who hit his first homer of the spring Wednesday, has turned himself into one of the premier young talents in the majors and certainly a cornerstone within the Red Sox organization. But Devers, who is set to become a free agent after 2023, confirmed Wednesday that he and the Sox have yet to talk about an extension beyond next season.
“[The team] hasn’t spoken to me, personally,” Devers said. “But they know how I feel about the organization. I know they’re fond of me as well. But currently, right now, we haven’t had any talks.”
Devers said ideally he doesn’t want to have talks during the season, adding that he wants to just focus on the season without any distractions. His future beyond 2023 isn’t a priority.
“Obviously I’ve been here for so long,” Devers said. “This is home for me. We’ll see what happens at the end of the year.”
Story ramping up
Thursday will mark two weeks from when the Red Sox will open up the season against the Yankees in New York. That means newly-acquired second baseman Trevor Story, has to ramp up quickly. Story went through some batting practice and infield work Wednesday. He will take live batting practice Thursday. It’s unclear when Story will make his Grapefruit League debut, but Cora said he’s already itching to play and for feedback.
“It’s great to have him,” Cora said. “You know, the energy and you can see it right away. He’s taking ground balls, and he’s gonna pick it up fairly quick. There’s a few things that we’ll work on. But you don’t want to overcoach it.”
Cuts and options made
The following players were reassigned to minor league camp: first baseman Triston Casas, infielders David Hamilton and Christian Koss, righthander Durbin Feltman and Brian Keller, lefthander Chris Murphy.
Infielder Jeter Downs, righthanders Bryan Mata, Connor Seabold, and Josh Winckowski, and lefthander Jay Groome were optioned to Triple-A Worcester.
Groome pitched a scoreless sixth against the Twins Wednesday.
“He has to just keep pitching,” Cora said of Groome, who was the Sox’ first-round draft choice in 2016 but has dealt with injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2018. “Whenever he’s down there [in the minors], keep getting better. [Today] was fun to watch.
Team agrees to terms with 19 players
The Red Sox agreed to terms with the following players: outfielders Jarren Duran and Jeisson Rosario; infielders Jonathan Araúz, Bobby Dalbec, Downs, and Hudson Potts; pitchers Eduard Bazardo, Brayan Bello, Kutter Crawford, Austin Davis, Groome, Darwinzon Hernandez, Mata, Seabold, Phillips Valdez, Garrett Whitlock, and Winckowski; and catchers Ronaldo Hernández and Connor Wong. Tanner Houck’s 2022 contract was renewed. Hernandez will make a major league salary of $724,000, Whitlock is at $720K, and Dalbec will pull in $714K. Houck’s salary is $716K . . . Christian Arroyo (right thumb contusion) was a late scratch from Wednesday’s game. The team doesn’t believe it to be serious . . . The Red Sox announced that the Boston College ALS Awareness Game will return to Fenway on Saturday, April 23. Boston College will face Virginia Tech beginning at 6 p.m. (ACC Network). The game has been played since 2012 in honor of former BC baseball captain Pete Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS that year and died in 2019.