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Nathan Eovaldi eager to help overworked Red Sox pitching staff

Nathan Eovaldi is looking to return to the mound for the Red Sox shortly after the All-Star break.Kathy Willens/Associated Press/Associated Press

TORONTO — The longer it took for Red Sox righthander Nathan Eovaldi to rehabilitate his arm after undergoing elbow surgery in mid-April, the more he began to consider simply finding the fastest way to rejoin the pitching staff.

If it were as a reliever, then so be it. When he had conversations with Red Sox manager Alex Cora and president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski, the idea made sense.

“I told [Cora] I want to come back and help out as soon as possible,” Eovaldi said Wednesday. “If I were to come back in the starting rotation, it would take at least another month to build up that way. And any way I can help out, I want to go out and do so.”


It has been three months since Eovaldi had surgery to remove loose bodies in his right elbow, and one month since his recovery was halted by bicep tendinitis, but the Sox are hopeful he could return after next week’s All-Star break.

Eovaldi threw a 20-pitch (all fastballs) bullpen session Wednesday at Rogers Centre . He will throw again on Saturday. From there, the team will decide if he’ll need a minor league rehab assignment. The priority is managing his workload, keeping his arm healthy, and putting him in spots to be effective.

“It just depends on how fast they want to try and move it,” Eovaldi said. “We don’t really want to jump far ahead because we don’t want to have any setbacks or anything like that. But right now I feel really good and I don’t think it’s going to take too long.”

Eovaldi’s injury created a void in the starting rotation’s fifth spot, and the ramifications have been far-reaching. Production out of that spot has been disappointing. In 15 games, No. 5 staters are 2-7 with a 6.57 ERA, giving the Sox just 49⅓ innings pitched (less than 3⅓ per start). As a whole, Sox starters are 19th in baseball in innings pitched, and relievers have felt the burden, throwing the seventh-most innings in the majors.


“I told them any way I can help out. I don’t have to come back into the starting rotation,” Eovaldi said. “If I need to come out of the bullpen and eat some innings out of there, I’m more than happy to do so. The bullpen’s been doing an amazing job for us this year, they had to fill in a hole and I feel like a lot of it was on me.”

Eovaldi, who signed a four-year, $68 million deal in the offseason, acknowledged it has been a difficult season.

“It’s been real frustrating just having to have the surgery, then working my way back and then having to rebuild again,” Eovaldi said.

Bogaerts an All-Star

In the Sox clubhouse and around baseball, Xander Bogaerts was an All-Star even if the balloting said differently. But Major League Baseball made it official Wednesday when the shortstop was named an American League injury replacement.

With Hunter Pence out, Bogaerts was tapped to take his spot. It will be the second All-Star appearance of Bogaerts’s career.

Bogaerts was one of the biggest snubs of the selection process. He’s fourth among shortstops in batting average (.301), first in on-base percentage (.392), fourth in slugging (.541), first in RBIs (58), sixth in homers (16), and leads all shortstops in wins above replacement.


“It’s good, man,” Cora said. “Very proud of him. He’s done an amazing job throughout the season. He’s been one of the best players in all of baseball. So very happy he’s going to be with us there in Cleveland.”

Meanwhile, J.D. Martinez was named the AL starter at DH.

Help on the way

Heath Hembree joined the team in Toronto on Wednesday after his rehab outing with Triple A Pawtucket on Tuesday.

Hembree, who has been on the injured list since June 14 (retroactive to June 11), struck out two batters in two innings against Scranton Wilkes-Barre, throwing 12 of his 16 pitches for strikes.

“My arm felt healthy, so that’s the main key,” Hembree said. “Been a few weeks, so I felt a little bit of rustiness out there on the mound, but I felt good. So that’s all that mattered.”

Hembree was 1-0 with a 2.51 ERA in 31 appearances before going on the IL. Nine of those appearances came in high-leverage situations. He was called on in a number of different spots, from the sixth to the ninth inning, but most commonly pitched in the seventh.

“I like to feel I can help the bullpen,” he said. “Whatever situation it is, I know the situations I come in can be random at times, but I’m just looking forward to getting back with the guys.”

Cora said he would make a decision about plans for Hembree after Wednesday’s game.

“He feels good,” Cora said. “So either tomorrow or Friday.”


Velazquez to start

Hector Velazquez (1-3, 5.31 ERA) will start Thursday for the Red Sox . . . Mitch Moreland, on the IL since June 8 because of a right quad strain, may be nearing a rehab assignment. The Sox are trying to work around events at Fenway to give Moreland an opportunity to get treatment. Moreland ran the bases Wednesday and continues to take batting practice. “Bouncing back well the next day,” Cora said of the first baseman’s progress. “So I don’t know when, but it seems like he’s getting closer.”

Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com