The Tampa Bay Rays will probably look a lot different at the end of spring training than they do right now, at the beginning. The team still needs to cut payroll and tough decisions will be required.
But one name will definitely be in the starting rotation, one who wasn’t there last year... or the year before that... or the year before that. 28-year-old Nate Eovaldi is more than ready to resume his career.
“It was good,” Eovaldi told reporters after his bullpen session on Thursday. “I think this was my fifth or sixth (session) and everything felt great. I’m throwing all my pitches... I’m not holding anything back.”
Except for some late rehab games in the minors, Eovaldi missed the entire 2017 season after undergoing two major elbow procedures in August 2016, including his second Tommy John surgery. Not too many pitchers come back from a second Tommy John surgery to pitch in the major leagues again. But Eovaldi plans to beat the odds and take the Tropicana Field mound.
“I’m 100 percent now. I know I’m healthy. I’m not thinking I’m going to go out there and get hurt, or anything like that. That’s in the past. Right now, it’s making sure I stay healthy for the start of the season, face some hitters and see what happens from there.”
Before the last surgery, the Houston native was clocked with the second highest average fastball velocity in baseball -- 97 miles per hour, just short of the New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard. The Rays thought enough of that fastball, and his potential, to offer him a two-year contract, even in the middle of his rehab from the second Tommy John surgery.
Rays manager Kevin Cash couldn’t be more optimistic, saying, “He’s got electric stuff.”
So this is Nate’s big chance to prove he can still pitch, and pitch well, like he did with the New York Yankees in 2015 when he won 14 games. It's also Eovaldi's big chance to cash in, because he's a free agent after this season. If he’s successful and healthy, it will likely lead to a big payday for him. The Rays may not be the team showing Eovaldi the money, but they'll gladly take one good season for their investment in him.
If you're heading out to Tropicana Field to see Eovaldi and the rest of the Rays in action, don't forget to check out 727area for the best places in St. Petersburg to eat and hang out after the game. Sign up for those free email updates, too!
Photo courtesy of the author.