World Series hero Nathan Eovaldi earns his Red Sox payday: ‘He’s like Teddy Roosevelt’
LAS VEGAS — Really, it was the perfect place for the Boston Red Sox to unveil their biggest prize of the winter Monday, on stage at the Mandalay Bay Palace and Casino.
Nathan Eovaldi, who a year ago was still recovering from Tommy John surgery, gambled on himself in Game 3 of the World Series, reaching almost iconic status in New England, and got his monster payday with a four-year, $68 million contract.
Here’s a pitcher who was going to be a free agent in a few days, and instead of playing it safe and telling the Red Sox he could not pitch on short rest in the World Series, he went out and pitched his guts out for six innings.
It still resulted in an 18-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Red Sox manager Alex Cora called Eovaldi’s inspirational performance the turning point of the World Series.
It may also have spared Cora’s life.
“I texted [Red Sox second baseman] Dustin Pedroia in the 17th inning," agent Seth Levinson said, “and told him, 'I’m going to come in and kill Alex Cora. I’m going to kill Alex. He will never manage the 18th inning.'
“And Dustin told Alex."
Levinson, laughing now while relaying the story, says that it was this act of courage that perhaps best defined Eovaldi. Certainly, the Red Sox expressed their appreciation, and backed up the talk with their actions.
“He risked everything," Levinson said. “He pushed all of the chips into the middle of the table. He understood that his future was at risk by going out there, and it was more about being selfless than anything else.
“I just think the country identified with him after that. He’s like Teddy Roosevelt, the man of the people."
Eovaldi became an overnight hero, wildly celebrated during the Red Sox parade, receiving monstrous ovations during MLB Network’s documentary premiere of the World Series, with teammates and Cora incessantly calling and texting trying to recruit him back.
“It was a no-brainer for me to come back here," Eovaldi said.
"The relationship that I had and all that I experienced that I gained, I feel like as a player, you have the love and support from your teammates, not only them, but from the fans," said the 28-year-old on Monday.
"Everything that I've worked for and had to come back from. It's nice that the hard work paid off, and for it to be with the Red Sox – it couldn't be a better organization."
There were plenty of teams involved in the sweepstakes, everyone from the New York Yankees to the Houston Astros to the Los Angeles Angels, but Eovaldi knew that he finally found Utopia after being with five different organizations and undergoing two Tommy John surgeries.
“The one thing that always stood out about Nate was just his work ethic," said Miami Marlins manager Don Mattingly, who managed Eovaldi with the Dodgers. “This guy worked and worked and worked. He was one of those guys that you were like, “If you’re going to bet on anybody, it’s betting on him.
“Those guys don’t come along that often that have that type of work ethic, and they’re just fierce in their work. So what stood out is really that he maintained the same stuff after two Tommy John surgeries, and it was really good to see him that have kind of success. You love seeing good things happen for guys that work like he did."
The Red Sox, who acquired Eovaldi on July 25 from the Tampa Bay Rays, now may have to go through the same process all over again a year from now. Ace Chris Sale is a free agent. So is former Cy Young winner Rick Porcello.
It’ll be Eovaldi’s turn to be the recruiter.
“We know we're not going to be able to sign everybody," Red Sox GM David Dombrowski said, “but the more stability that's out there, the better off we are. Right now we're in a spot where we hope to keep everybody. It won't happen due to the rules, some of the interests, some of the contract offers they receive in other places.
“We know that there's a lot of question marks about long-term contract status for members of our club. It’s going to be a juggling act over the next several of years, so I think Nate's bringing him back was very important for us. But again, I don't know that that's going to be possible to do it with everybody on a regular basis."
That’s a problem for next winter.
For now, the Red Sox have another World Series to win, this time, with Eovaldi around for an entire season.
“I want to come back and experience that all over again. I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it," Eovaldi said.
Sending chills down the spine to the rest of the AL East.
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