Matt Barnes knows what it’s like to go from pitching every five days as a starter to being used out of the bullpen on consecutive days, so he understands the transition Nathan Eovaldi is about to go through.
Barnes was a starter in the minor leagues before becoming a reliever for the Boston Red Sox. Though his role didn’t change midseason as Eovaldi’s will, Barnes noted the importance of “finding a routine,” which will keep Eovaldi’s strength up.
“The biggest thing is you have to be ready to pitch every day. Two or three days in a row,” Barnes said, via MassLive. “That’s the hardest part – finding a routine that allows you to maintain strength and feeling good while allowing you to pitch every day.”
Eovaldi was activated from the 60-day injured list by the Red Sox on Saturday. He’s served as a starter for Boston since being acquired by the team last summer and has pitched in relief just eight times in his career. Eovaldi’s most recent relief appearance came in Game 3 of the 2018 World Series.
Barnes said Eovaldi will have to strategize differently as a reliever, as bullpen arms usually don’t go through the opponents’ lineup two or three times.
“The biggest difference in strategy is when you start is, you can kind of feel out the lineup, work and establish some stuff. You have to go through a lineup three times. You’re more or less playing chess with them of the course of five, six, seven innings,” Barnes said. “When you come in as a reliever, you’re emptying the tank. When the game is on the line you have to be smarter.
“In the second inning, if there’s a guy on first in a 0-0 game or 1-0, you can still go after him smartly. In the seventh, eighth, ninth inning it’s better to put a guy on first base than make a mistake trying to get back into the count,” he added. “Put him in first base and take my chances with the guy that’s on deck. It’s just being aware in situations like that.”
It certainly will be interesting to see how Eovaldi adapts as a closer and how the Red Sox will benefit between now and the end of the regular season.
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