Red Sox starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi said he took a month off to rest when baseball shut down in March, then started to slowly build back up and is ready to up to six innings. With just three proven starters, the Sox need everything they can get out of Eovaldi. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Starting pitching won’t be the same in 2020.

While Nathan Eovaldi tickled 100 mph and revealed he’d been throwing six-inning sessions during the coronavirus break after Day 2 of the Red Sox’ workouts on Saturday, starters across the majors were telling a different story.

In Cincinnati, the Reds are looking at a four-man rotation where starters piggy-back off each other with three- or four-inning outings.

In San Francisco, Giants’ Manager Gabe Kapler said he doesn’t expect his starters to throw more than three innings the first time through the rotation.

In Tampa Bay, it was reported that Rays’ righty Charlie Morton is expecting to throw four innings when the season starts.

It’s the new age of baseball – starters are being pushed not in length, but to maximize power over shorter durations. The 60-game season will allow teams to experiment with a four-man staff and shorter-burst outings.


But the Red Sox aren’t looking at doing that.

They’ve prepared for nothing unusual, treating the 2020 season like it was any other, expecting a five-man rotation despite having only three proven big league starters, one, Martin Perez, who has been among the worst in the game at striking people out, and another (Eduardo Rodriguez) who has yet to report to camp while he awaits coronavirus testing after coming in contact with someone who had it.

The Sox’ bullpen is far deeper than the rotation, but the team remains committed to a traditional staff with traditional innings requests.

“Well if you go three innings now, Nate in five days will be at four innings, then the next one will be five innings, so I think if we can get guys to five innings, I think the next outing, if it’s during the season, they should be able to bump that up to six,” said Red Sox Manager Ron Roenicke.

Eovaldi is ready for it.

“I feel like once everything shut down (in March), I took probably a month off,” he said. “I didn’t really throw at all and I didn’t think we were going to pick back up anytime soon, so I went ahead and gave my arm the time it needed to recover or just took the time and started building back up as if it was an offseason. Took it nice and slow and played it by ear.


“Once they said June 10 would try to be our start date I tried to be ready to go at least four or five or six innings. I’ve probably thrown five or six outings at home. No hitters or anything like that. I was able to throw to (Connor) Wong and we were doing six innings, 15, 20 pitches each, so I felt like I was strong and ready to go.”

Nathan Eovaldi was pitching well in spring training before baseball shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Sox hope he can pick up where he left off. John Bazemore/Associated Press

Of all the pitchers on the Red Sox staff to be careful with, Eovaldi is the one, given his two Tommy John surgeries and history of missing starts regularly due to injury concerns.

But the 2020 season is so unique, with just 37% of the normal 162-game schedule and thus a larger importance on every outing, and pushing Eovaldi is one way to give the Red Sox a chance.

“Nate’s throwing these games out here and still throwing close to 100 (mph),” Roenicke said. “With him, the effort and the energy level, I guess he doesn’t need that game performance against another team to have the adrenaline to really be able to get a lot out of it and maximize his stuff. The other guys, it’s just individually, it’s different.”

Given the Sox don’t know if Rodriguez will be ready to start the season, and lefty inning-eaters Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez both tested positive for the coronavirus this week, the Sox are short on quality innings.

How much of them Eovaldi can shoulder is the question.


“I felt really good,” he said. “I was really excited to be out there and back on the mound and work with (Christian Vazquez). I feel like we haven’t missed a beat. Once we took that break I was really trying to work on a slider so I continued to work on that today and felt good.”

Eovaldi rarely threw his slider the last two years, though it was a big part of his repertoire (he used it about 20% of the time) in his first six years as a big leaguer.

“Last year I felt like it got bigger and bigger and it was almost like a slurve in a way and I wanted to try to make it harder and I felt like I was able to do that today,” he said. “The break wasn’t as consistent as I’d like but it felt really good coming out.”

It’s Eovaldi’s staff now.

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