Nathan Eovaldi threw a “perfect game” in a live batting practice session on Saturday during his first outing of spring training, Red Sox manager Alex Cora said.
“As always, his stuff is good,” Cora said. “We’ve just got to make sure he stays healthy throughout.”
The Red Sox haven’t yet found the answer to keeping Eovaldi healthy since they signed him to a four-year, $68 million deal following the 2018 World Series.
He missed time with loose bodies in his elbow in 2019 and a calf injury that ended his season early in ’20.
Having thrown only 48⅓ innings last year, Eovaldi was asked how many innings he’ll be able to bounce back with in ’21.
“I don’t know really what the expectations are going to be this year,” he said. “If we’re gonna have a limit, when it will be, if we’re gonna have a down period where we’re kind of getting a break — I’m not sure how it’s all gonna happen.
“I prepared like I would any other season. I started throwing the same time I normally would. My body feels great.”
Cora talked with Red Sox head trainer Brad Pearson and they decided their plan to bring Eovaldi back as a reliever in the middle of the ’19 season was not a mistake, despite Eovaldi finishing the year with a 5.99 ERA.
“We asked for him to do too many things,” Cora said. “He got hurt, he comes back, we put him in high leverage situations. Then we asked him to start and one thing’s for sure, he finished the season in a positive note in ’19 … and he did the same thing last year. So I’m looking for him to do great things.”
Young arms opening eyes
Keep an eye on Garrett Whitlock, a 24-year-old right-hander who the Sox nabbed from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft back in December. He’s 6-foot-5 and throws 95 mph with sink, a combination that has Cora excited.
“Whitlock is a guy that I’ll be paying a lot of attention to,” he said. “Wait till you guys come down here and you see him. He plays the part. He threw a bullpen yesterday, it was very impressive. And the most impressive thing about him is the way he acts, the way he takes care of his body and what he does.”
Cora also praised the work of chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom for collecting some young pitching depth since he arrived in Boston.
The acquisitions of right-handers Nick Pivetta and Connor Seabold from the Phillies last year could play a big role on the ’21 Red Sox. Pivetta is out of options and would need to make the team out of camp or pass through waivers to get to the minors. He has to earn a roster spot.
“He’s a guy that I trust,” Cora said. “The organization did a good job last year, not only bringing him in, but Seabold, too, and that’s what it’s all about, bringing in capable arms and guys that not only can contribute this year, but in the upcoming years.
“Our pitching depth, you know the kids that might contribute this year and the future of the organization, it’s been pretty cool to see these guys.”
One young guy with great stuff and velocity is lefty Darwinzon Hernandez, who missed much of the ‘20 season after he contracted the coronavirus.
“As of now, we’re going to treat him as a reliever,” Cora said. “We do believe that stuff-wise he can give us big outs late in games. Those are decisions, they might change over the course of the season or the course of spring training. As of now, we’ll treat him like a reliever and a reliever that is going to contribute to us in the last third of the game.”
Among the new COVID-19 protocols in spring training: wearing Kinexon contact-tracing devices to carefully track who comes in close contact with one another in the event of an outbreak.
Cora said he picks up his device every morning when he enters the park, just after taking his temperature, and keeps it in his pocket throughout the day. It starts beeping loudly when he is within 6 feet of somebody for more than 10 seconds.
“Honestly, it hasn’t been that hard,” he said. “It’s been as normal as possible. The only difference is you’re doing work with the mask on. Is that the obstacle? Well, you know what? Either here or outside of JetBlue Park, you have to do it anyways. So it’s not that bad.
“Staff meetings are outside in the mornings. We have a tent with a TV when we have to break down stuff for the players. It’s the new way, man. Actually, I’ve been saying all along, when this thing is over and we’ll have a regular camp next year, we’ll do a lot of the stuff that we’re doing right now in a normal season because it makes sense.”