FORT MYERS, Fla. — It sounded as if glass had been shattered when Marcelo Mayer made contact with a Nate Eovaldi fastball Monday morning.
Eovaldi, on the mound in this simulated matchup, tried to smother Mayer with a fastball inside. But the Red Sox’ top shortstop prospect was all over it, belting a home run over the 420-foot sign in center field at JetBlue Park.
“[Eovaldi] is an uncomfortable at-bat,” Mayer said afterward. “I was shocked when I hit it. But you know, he has so many good pitches that you’ve got to just really simplify it. So I ended up sitting fastball.”
Mayer’s ability to adjust within the at-bat is impressive. Continuing to learn and understand who he is as a hitter is even more impressive. Mayer just turned 19 in December. He hasn’t played above rookie ball, so of course, Eovaldi, is the best pitcher he’s ever faced.
Mayer noticed Eovaldi kept going to his curveball against him. Mayer said he had to simplify his approach, meaning stick to a strength: the fastball. When it left Mayer’s bat there was no doubt it would end up being a memorable moment.
“I faced a few big leaguers that are also really good and really talented,” Mayer said. “But Nathan Eovaldi just has something to him, you know.”
Eovaldi couldn’t remember any highlight moments during the early parts of his professional career. But he admitted the Mayer homer was something that should be a highlight for the Sox’ No. 4 overall pick in 2021.
“It’s still a big deal,” Eovaldi said. “They get to watch us and learn from us. And we’re all in the dugouts talking, communicating. So for him to go out there and do it [is cool]. He’s one of those gifted guys who is going to make an impact with the team eventually.”
Almost ready to go
Eovaldi tossed six innings during Monday’s simulated game, working up to roughly 78 pitches. At one point, Eovaldi had retired 9 of 10 batters.
“Overall, I feel really good out there, honing my pitches,” Eovaldi said. “My cutter was a little inconsistent today. But everything else felt really good. I wanted to work on the curveball a little bit more, just throwing it for first-pitch strikes, and I was able to do that. We had a lot of lefties in the batter’s box today. I was able to bury [the curveball] when I needed to and then the slider is feeling better and better.”
Eovaldi’s next start will be his last before the April 7 season opener against the Yankees. He hopes it will be a normal start in which he can toss more than 80 pitches, preferring that over just a tune-up.
Eovaldi has worked with catcher Christian Vázquez — last year he settled in a bit more with Kevin Plawecki — the last two outings in order to get prepared for the season, too.
“We’re on the same page when we’re attacking the hitter,” Eovaldi said regarding throwing to Vázquez. “So I think that’s the biggest key for us.”
Story back in the swing
Trevor Story tripled off Eovaldi in his first contest back since paternity leave. Batting as the designated hitter, Story received a large chunk of at-bats practically every inning. Story won’t play Tuesday when the team travels to Bradenton to take on the Pirates. However, there is a chance he would make his Grapefruit League debut Wednesday against the Braves . . . Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes pitched in Monday’s simulated game, as well. Brasier yielded a homer against the first batter he faced . . . Nick Pivetta will get the start on the mound Tuesday in Bradenton.
Julian McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @byJulianMack.