The Red Sox skipped Nathan Eovaldi’s last turn through the rotation since the right-hander was dealing with soreness in his neck and shoulder. The issue is still bothering Eovaldi, and manager Alex Cora told MLB.com’s Ian Browne (Twitter links) and other reporters that Eovaldi won’t make his next start, scheduled for Tuesday against the Blue Jays. Another trip to the injured list hasn’t been ruled out, though Cora said the Sox haven’t yet decided how to proceed.
For Eovaldi, he said that staying off the IL is “the main goal,” since he is “feeling a lot better” than earlier in the week, even if the recovery process is “going a little slower than we anticipated.” Needless to say, it has been a “frustrating” time for the righty, who said that “every day, it’s just how can we make sure that I’m 100 percent especially going down the road for this next stretch.”
Eovaldi already missed a little more than month of the season due to inflammation in his lower back, and injuries have hampered the right-hander for much of his career. 2021 was a rare healthy season for Eovaldi, and he responded with a 3.75 ERA over 182 1/3 innings and a fourth-place finish in AL Cy Young Award voting — indicative of just how high Eovaldi’s ceiling can be if he can just stay on the field.
With a 4.15 ERA over 99 2/3 innings this season, Eovaldi’s bottom-line numbers aren’t far off his 2021 totals, and he still has an elite walk rate. However, Eovaldi has allowed more hard contact than almost any other pitcher in the league, and his strikeout has dropped to a middling 22.7%. Despite this step backwards, Eovaldi is still arguably Boston’s best starting pitcher, and is critical to whatever chance the Red Sox might still have of sneaking back into the wild card hunt.
In the bigger picture, Eovaldi is also a free agent after the season, and would surely prefer to reach the open market without yet another IL stint on his resume. Eovaldi already hasn’t appeared in a game since August 12, and even with up to three days of backdating available on an injured-list placement, putting Eovaldi on the IL would keep him out of action until September. If Eovaldi is already feeling some improvement, the Sox could take the risk of leaving him off the IL, though another setback (which presumably would then make an IL stint a foregone conclusion) would delay his return even further.