CLEVELAND — Nathan Eovaldi was set to return to the Red Sox rotation on Wednesday afternoon against the Cleveland Indians. But those plans, like so many others for the Sox this season, were quickly changed.
Eovaldi was needed in relief in the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s 7-6, 10-inning victory against the Indians, and now the Sox will be forced to cobble together a start on Wednesday.
Brian Johnson will start instead, with Eovaldi available in relief after throwing only six pitches. The righthander entered a one-run game with a runner on and retired two batters.
“That was pretty solid,” manager Alex Cora said. “I was trying to stay away from him the whole time. Not to sound too dramatic, but it was the biggest inning for what we were trying to accomplish.”
Cora said before the game the intent was to give Eovaldi the start and then leave him in the rotation. But he cautioned that the Sox had to get through Tuesday night first.
Now the Sox presumably will have to wait at least a few days to reintroduce Eovaldi to starting.
“We’re going to be creative,” Cora said. “We have a good chance to get on a run if we pitch well early in games. Obviously he’s done it before. He’s a guy that, we counted on him before the season to do that.”
Once he does get in the rotation, Eovaldi would fill the No. 5 spot where the Sox had been using Johnson. Upcoming days off would theoretically allow the Sox to use a four-man rotation through Sept. 6.
By then, roster expansion would make it easier to maneuver through the remainder of the season. David Price, who is on the injured list, also could figure into that mix at some point.
Eovaldi has not started since April 17, when he held the Yankees to one run on three hits over six innings. A bone chip was discovered in his elbow two days later, and he had arthroscopic surgery in New York.
Eovaldi was on the injured list for three months, his recovery slowed by biceps tendinitis. But he appeared in only one minor league rehabilitation game before the Sox activated him on July 20.
In 10 relief appearances, Eovaldi has allowed eight earned runs on 16 hits and four walks over 11⅓ innings. He also hit a batter and threw three wild pitches.
The original idea was to use Eovaldi as the closer, but it never happened as Brandon Workman held onto the job.
“He’s been OK,” Cora said. “The stuff is playing. I think the mix of pitches — I don’t want to say he’s in-between, but sometimes as a reliever you have to simplify it. He did it before but obviously it’s a different stage. He hasn’t pitched that much, either.
“It’s one of those, we had a plan set, and now with the off days we can be creative, and this is one of the ways to be creative.”
It’s also a chance to get some value out of Eovaldi, who was signed to a four-year, $68 million contract in December and has pitched only 32⅓ innings all season.
Ryan Brasier was demoted to Triple A Pawtucket on July 16, and in eight appearances since has allowed one run on six hits over 7⅓ innings with one walk and eight strikeouts.
But that has yet to earn him a return to the majors.
The Sox have recalled Josh Smith, Ryan Weber, Hector Velazquez, and Travis Lakins since. But Brasier remains parked in the International League.
According to Cora, the Sox want to see more quality pitches, not just impressive statistics.
“As far as the reports, his fastball location is lacking a little bit,” the manager said. “The velocity is back. His slider, which is — I don’t think is a big thing for him because he doesn’t use it that often — has been OK.
“He’s getting people out, everybody sees the box scores and all that. He’s making strides in the right direction as far as location, which is the most important thing.”
Price, who remained back in Boston, played catch again at Fenway Park, throwing all his pitches from flat ground. The lefthander is on the injured list with a cyst in his left wrist, but is seemingly making rapid progress following a cortisone shot. “It’s a step in the right direction,” Cora said . . . Righthanded reliever Heath Hembree, who last pitched Aug. 1, has yet to start throwing since he was given a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow Aug. 6. The Sox hope he will return this season, but that looks increasingly unlikely . . . J.D. Martinez extended his hit streak to 12 games with a single in the third inning . . . The Sox promoted infielder C.J. Chatham to Pawtucket. Chatham, a second-round pick in the 2016 draft, hit .297 with a .736 OPS in 90 games for Double A Portland.