After a series of internal discussions, the Red Sox decided that Nate Eovaldi will move to the bullpen when he returns from the injured list.
Eovaldi has been out since April after undergoing surgery to remove a loose body from his right elbow. At the time, he was expected to miss six weeks. He began ramping for a return in June but was set back by biceps tendinitis.
“We’ve been talking for a while and I think it’s the quickest way for him to contribute,” manager Alex Cora said. “He’s been anxious about it. We’re not closing down the door of him starting later on in the season, but I think for now it’s something we’ve been contemplating for a while and talking to Nate and [president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski] and the medical staff and everybody was on board.”
Cora and Dombrowski both stopped short of saying exactly when they expected Eovaldi to return. Eovaldi threw from the mound Monday and is scheduled to throw again Wednesday.
Dombrowski said he was hopeful Eovaldi will be back shortly after the All-Star break.
“Maybe immediately after, but if not, soon after,” Dombrowski said. “It depends how he feels, but he’s been feeling good.”
The Sox bullpen has faltered recently — possibly a product of throwing the sixth-most innings in the majors — which, Dombrowski said, made the decision to have Eovaldi return as a reliever more urgent, even though that wasn’t his intended role when they reached an agreement in December on a four-year, $68 million deal.
“To get him back and pitching for us quicker is out of the bullpen,’’ said Dombrowski. “Originally, he stated when we signed him over the winter time that he really didn’t want to go to the bullpen, but he’s changed that because he really wants to get back as quickly as he can. And for us, it strengthens our bullpen. It gives us some more depth out there.
“Some clubs tried to sign him as a bullpen guy. He’s in a different mind-set. It doesn’t preclude us from pitching him and still lengthening him out at some point, if we want to do that, but it gets him back quicker and I think it helps us.”
What Eovaldi will bring to the bullpen is clear, said Cora, pointing to the impact Eovaldi made during last year’s playoff run. He made six playoff appearances (two starts), and gave up just four runs in 22⅓ innings.
“We know that,” Cora said. “We saw what he did last year, but it was a different role. It was out of necessity. Before that, we used him the right way. He pitched in the eighth against Houston and against the Dodgers.
“Stuff-wise, I think he’s one of the best out there in the big leagues and we’ll maximize that while he’s in the bullpen.”
Cora said everyone is on the same page.
“It started with him, too, you know. If he’s not on board, then it’s not going to happen, but he wants to contribute,” Cora said. “That’s the most important thing. It’s something that makes sense as of now and we’ll see where it takes us.”
In terms of Eovaldi’s specific role — whether he’ll be immediately used as a closer or as a single-inning reliever — Cora said he had ideas that will take form in stages, but the priority is protecting Eovaldi’s health.”
So we’ll talk about it when the day gets closer.”
Setback for Pearce
The Red Sox’ other re-signing endured a significant setback, and is going to be out about a month with a knee injury.
Dombrowski said Steve Pearce “had fallen about a week ago in a game” while rehabbing with Triple A Pawtucket. While the injury did not initially hinder him, Dombrowski was informed Saturday that the issue was bothering the first baseman.
As a result, the World Series MVP was pulled back off of his rehab assignment. A subsequent exam revealed that Pearce “is going to be out for a while now. He’s got something wrong with his knee. He’s not going to need surgery. He’s going to need rehab.”
Pearce, who has already missed considerable time due to calf and back injuries, has had a nightmarish sequel to his 2018 Red Sox magic carpet ride.
In 29 games, he’s hitting .180/.245/.258. In seven games with the PawSox on his most recent rehab assignment, he hit .167/.310/.208 with 10 strikeouts in 29 plate appearances.
He’s now added the knee to a season in which he’d already missed considerable time due to calf and lower back injuries.
Although Pearce is expected to be out beyond the July 31 trade deadline, Dombrowski said the Red Sox did not see the acquisition of a right-handed bat as a priority.
He cited two reasons: First, the team believes Michael Chavis can be a right-handed-hitting platoon partner with Mitch Moreland, when the latter returns from his quadriceps strain. Secondly, the Sox feel they will need to carry 13 pitchers.
“We don’t have a fifth starter that’s going to go out and get seven innings on a consistent basis, so we’re probably going to need to go with 13 pitchers. You can do the math,” said Dombrowski.
Moreland (right quad) has been on the IL since June 8 and a rehab assignment still isn’t on the horizon, but he took live swings while the team was in London.
And the starter is . . .
The starter for Thursday’s series finale has yet to be finalized, but Hector Velazquez will likely get the nod, Cora said. Asked if Steven Wright could be a future option, Cora said it still has to be discussed.
“As you know, physically, it’s one of those that can he deal with the workload,” Cora said. “That’s the most important thing. Can he go out there and do it for five innings or is he better off going two innings one day, an off day, and then two innings after that?”
The longest outing during Wright’s rehab assignment was three innings for the PawSox. He hasn’t started since June 2018, when he went 3⅓ innings and gave up 10 runs on 10 hits against the Mariners.
Up and coming
Darwinzon Hernandez will be promoted to Triple A Pawtucket and make his next appearance out of the bullpen. Dombrowski said the organization said it believes that might be the best route for him in the long run.
“Not making any long-term declarations, but he pitched well last time starting-wise, but we feel there’s more of a short-term help for us out of the bullpen,” Dombrowski said. “We talked to him about it yesterday. He’s eager to do it.
Xander Bogaerts doesn’t have a Twitter account, but when word got to him about Carlos Correa’s tweet saying that Bogaerts deserved to be in the All-Star Game, Bogaerts appreciated the gesture.
“I mean, real recognize real,” Bogaerts said. “He’s a shortstop that he came up pretty much the same time I did. I think numbers-wise, guys know what should happen and it didn’t, but it is what it is.
“I think everyone knows it. I can’t change the result right now. Like I said, it is what it is.”
Cora extended thoughts and prayers to the Angels after the death of 27-year-old pitcher Tyler Skaggs on Monday. “It’s a tough day for everybody, another sad day for us,” Cora said. The Blue Jays honored Skaggs’s memory with a moment of silence prior to the game . . . Heath Hembree, on the injured list with a right elbow extensor strain, made a rehab appearance with the PawSox. He struck out two in one inning of work.