Alex Cora intends to keep Nathan Eovaldi in the starting rotation beyond Sunday, which will make the man himself happy.
“I’ve started my whole career,” Eovaldi said Saturday, a day before he was to make his first start since April 17. “It’s something I like doing and enjoy doing. I’ll treat it like any other game.”
Cora believes the rocket-armed righthander, used out of the bullpen 11 times since coming off the injured list July 20, could throw 55 to 60 pitches on Sunday. Eovaldi said he is targeting four innings, the hope being he will increase his pitch count by 15 or 20 in subsequent outings.
“We feel he can be really quick” to get back to speed, Cora said. “Obviously it would be cool to have 10 pitches, 10 strikes, three outs. We know where he’s at physically . . . he’s in a good spot.”
Eovaldi, who has twice had Tommy John surgery, hit the operating table April 23 to remove a loose body in his right elbow. He had a similar procedure on March 30 of last year, when he was pitching for Tampa Bay.
The 2018 postseason hero is 0-0 with a 6.00 ERA in four starts this year, never making it out of the sixth inning, though he has thrown as many as 104 pitches. As a reliever, he has not thrown more than 40, with 17 hits and eight runs allowed in 13⅓ innings, plus 18 strikeouts and four walks.
This season he has yet to face the Orioles, who rank in the bottom 10 of major league teams in most major offensive categories.
Pen session for Price
David Price (elbow) was scheduled for a bullpen session on Saturday, though pregame, Cora didn’t know how many pitches Price would throw.
“It’s a good sign he’s getting on the mound,” said Cora, who added that the lefty could be back after throwing a second bullpen this week.
With Chris Sale headed to the injured list with elbow inflammation, reliever Ryan Brasier was recalled from Pawtucket.
The Red Sox believe Brasier, swapped out for rookie Darwinzon Hernandez on July 16 after a first half of struggles, has improved his fastball location. Cora noted Brazier was spotting his high-90s heat last year, but this season, he paid the price for throwing it up, over the middle of the plate, and flat.
Not so in Triple A. Brasier, 31, made 10 appearances, allowing six hits and one run in 9⅓ innings, with 13 strikeouts and one walk.
“He’ll be here,” Cora said. “He’s with us. He’s an important piece of what we’re trying to accomplish.
“He will get big outs for us.”
Before the Red Sox’ 4-0 victory over the Orioles on Saturday night, Rafael Devers was recognized as the Red Sox’ winner of the MLBPA Heart & Hustle Award, voted on by alumni and active players and given to those who demonstrate a passion for the game. The leaguewide Heart & Hustle winner will be revealed Nov. 7.
In comments centered around his offseason improvement and potential, a proud Cora heaped praise on the “little brother” of the clubhouse, who hit his 26th home run of the season on Saturday night.
“At that age, to decide to get a nutritionist and a personal trainer and work on his defense, to go to Fort Myers early, it showed a lot to us,” Cora said of Devers, who is leading the majors in hits (163), extra-base hits (73), and doubles (44). “We challenged him. I was thinking about it last night — the talk in spring training was for him to hit third for us, can he handle it? He did. He was able to handle hitting second.”
Devers has few holes in his game, but his defense (18 errors this season) is in need of improvement. Cora brought up a former Red Sox third baseman when discussing the rookie’s drive.
“He’s only 22,” Cora said. “As a baseball fan, you’re like, ‘Wow. What’s gonna happen here? Who is this guy going to become?’ We talk about [Adrian] Beltre in his first season, he made  errors. He became a Hall of Famer and one of the best defensive third basemen in the history of the game. I’m not saying Raffy’s going to be Adrian Beltre, but he’s only 22.”
Taylor on a roll
Josh Taylor has been rock-solid since giving up a lead Aug. 3 in Yankee Stadium. He entered Saturday on a streak of seven innings (seven appearances), without allowing a hit. The last batter to crack him was Gleyber Torres, who homered off him in that doubleheader sweep. Taylor entered Saturday working on the best ERA (2.70) of his professional career, which began in 2014 in the Phillies’ system. Across all levels, his career mark is 5.08 runs allowed per nine innings. That’s 3.47 this year. He has only thrown 23⅓ innings, but has struck out 32 batters and walked 11 . . . Brock Holt, who started at second base on Saturday and homered in the fifth, returned to the team Friday after missing two games to attend the funeral of Derwood “Pops” Penney, a former Navarro College (Texas) assistant coach. Holt, who played at Navarro from 2007-08, was close to Penney. . . . The Orioles debuted flamethrowing prospect Hunter Harvey, drafted 22nd overall in 2013. The 24-year-old righty reached triple digits with his fastball. Future opponent watch: the Red Sox will not meet standout rookie shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. when they visit San Diego for a three-game set that begins next Friday. Tatis, whose Padres debut includes a .317/.379/.590 slash line, 22 homers, 16 steals, and flashy defense at short, is expected to miss the rest of the season with a back issue . . . Of the Red Sox’ 38 remaining games, 15 are against teams who held a playoff spot as of Saturday morning. They also face the Giants (2½ games back for the NL wild card), who may make or break their hopes at Fenway from Sept. 17-19. Most of their immediate foes long ago began contemplating this season’s mortality. The Sox are in a stretch where they have 13 games against the Orioles, Phillies, Padres, Rockies, and Angels. Using the standings as a standard, the .525 Phillies were the most intimidating of that bunch.