The veteran righty started Game 2 of the ALCS for Texas and pitched six strong innings. He limited the Astros to three runs and struck out nine. In fact, Eovaldi has won all three of his postseason starts and has a 2.29 ERA with just one walk in 19.2 innings.
He also went a respectable 12-5 with a 3.63 ERA this year, his first with the Rangers, despite some injuries. And yet, Yankees fans are silent, at least compared to them crowing about the big lefty Montgomery.
Now, in fairness to Yankees fans, this is probably because most barely remember Nathan Eovaldi in New York. Unlike Montgomery, he wasn’t a homegrown prospect. He was acquired from the Marlins in an offseason trade in December 2014 and spent two years in the Bronx.
And on the whole, Eovaldi’s time in New York wasn’t bad. He went 14-3 with a 4.20 ERA in 2015 before missing the last month of the season with elbow trouble. Moreover, he also led the AL in pitcher winning percentage that year and had a respectable 3.42 FIP.
Eovaldi then regressed more to the mean the following year before needing Tommy John surgery in August, and the rest is history. He’s since become a valuable front end starter for the Rays, Red Sox, and now Rangers. He even won a World Series ring with Boston in 2018 after proving reliable in the playoffs.
And still, Yankees fans are silent and save their rage, sympathies, and everything in between for Montgomery. Why is this so?
Looking at both players’ respective careers, it has to be a simple case of homegrown prospect bias. Montgomery was a Yankees draft pick and started his career in the Bronx. Fans watched every step of his big league journey, from his debut to needing Tommy John surgery to his successful comeback. Add newfound confidence in his fastball after being traded to St. Louis last year, and fans probably feel robbed of missing him pitch at this level.
Nathan Eovaldi, on the other hand, was always a project player in Brian Cashman’s eyes. He was a two-pitch pitcher with decent fastball velocity and a promising slider, and just needed more secondary pitches. The first thing that then-Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild did with Eovaldi was teach him how to throw a splitter and changeup.
Cue Tommy John surgery, the Yankees releasing him, and Eovaldi recovering with the Rays. This is when he added a cutter to his arsenal, and the Red Sox helped him improve his curveball.
This is Nathan Eovaldi the complete pitcher. He throws a fastball, splitter, cutter, and sometimes a curveball. The changeup he threw in New York is gone. The slider? All but abandoned.
Sounds like someone who came to the Yankees knowing how to throw, left, and then learned how to pitch. Just like his teammate Jordan Montgomery. Fans just weren’t as emotionally invested in the journeyman compared to their homegrown arm.
Thus, while Yankees fans should be happy for Eovaldi, it’s understandable why they aren’t quite sad about losing him in the first place. His short time in the Bronx was fun, but not particularly notable. No one expected him to be a forever-Yankee.
Now, at 33 years old, Nathan Eovaldi is on the cusp of his second trip to the World Series. Let’s see if he gets that second ring.