Nathan Eovaldi was born with gifts us mere mortals could only wish to possess.
The Boston Red Sox pitcher once again put those gifts on display Tuesday night in Houston where he kept a dangerous Astros lineup at bay, pitching the Red Sox to a Game 3 win in the American League Championship Series.
But Eovaldi’s talents — mainly his ability to comfortably throw a baseball at 98 mph on a consistent basis — aren’t solely the work of the big man upstairs.
“His workouts are ridiculous,” teammate Rick Porcello marveled at a Tuesday press conference. “He’s like warming up with 300 pounds on the squat rack. Can’t even think about that this time of year.”
Whatever Eovaldi is doing, it’s working. The Red Sox’s deal to acquire the 28-year-old from the Tampa Bay Rays for promising left-hander Jalen Beeks on July 25 was one of the more unheralded trade deadline moves. Instead, some wondered whether the Red Sox gave up too much for an inconsistent pitcher with two Tommy John surgeries in his past who will be a free agent this winter.
Eovaldi’s on-field performance, especially in two playoff starts, has made Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski look like a genius, though. No one has pitched more playoff innings than Eovaldi thus far, and he’s allowed just three earned runs in 13 innings over the first two postseason starts of his career. After a Game 2 loss to the New York Yankees had many jumping Boston’s ship, Eovaldi shifted the course of the series with a seven-inning gem in a Red Sox rout. He wasn’t as sharp Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park, but he was nails when he needed to be, pitching six solid frames, allowing just two runs.
“Nate did amazing,” outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. told reporters after the game. “He’s been like the unsung hero, coming in and just filling up the zone with strikes with all his pitches, and taking it deep into, deep into the game, allowing the bullpen to rest a little bit. He’s battled since pitch one and it’s been a lot of fun playing behind him.”
The Red Sox aren’t just enjoying Eovaldi’s presence on the mound, as the big right-hander hasn’t needed much time to endear himself to his new teammates.
“And it’s easy to kind of blow smoke about guys coming into clubhouses and the impact they have, but he’s had a big impact on the guys in our clubhouse and pitching staff,” Porcello said. “One of the hardest-working guys I’ve ever been around. And his focus and kind of — he’s a real even-keeled guy. It’s a nice presence to be around when you see him. Good, bad or indifferent, he’s the same guy, he’s got the same focus.
“And, honestly, when you get fresh players that come in halfway through the season and you see a new energy coming to the clubhouse, it rubs off on you. So he’s made a big impact just kind of, he’s aggressive, he works his tail off and he’s got that mental makeup that we need in this clubhouse.”
All of that work has paid off by way of on-field results. It’s also likely to literally pay off Eovaldi this winter as a free agent. Just entering his prime, the former 11th-round pick should be in line for the first big payday of his young career.
Eovaldi has a similar track record to that of, say, Tyler Chatwood, who got three years and $38 million from the Chicago Cubs last offseason. Eovaldi and his representation should be aiming for an Alex Cobb-like contract. The Baltimore Orioles were chastised for giving the right-hander four years and $57 million, but if Eovaldi continues to contribute to a potential World Series team, that will only help his earning potential.
Regardless, it’s hard to debate this relationship, even if it’s just a short-term fling, has been incredibly beneficial for all involved.