1:02pm: Eovaldi will indeed undergo surgery, the team announced. He might require a rehab timeline of six to eight weeks, Topkin suggests on Twitter.
Eovaldi will be replaced for the time being by righty Austin Pruitt.
12:12pm: The Rays have suffered a tough blow on the eve of Opening Day, as Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweets that righty Nathan Eovaldi will be down to open the season. “Loose bodies” in Eovaldi’s elbow will likely require surgery, per the report.
A potential timeline is not yet clear at this point, though Topkin suggests that Eovaldi is still expected to be a candidate to pitch for the organization at some point in the 2018 season. A two-time Tommy John recipient, Eovaldi does not appear to be at risk of that kind of consequential procedure. But it’s obviously concerning to hear that he may well end up under the knife yet again.
Eovaldi, 28, had joined the organization on a two-year, $4MM deal that allowed him to rehab in 2017. The hope all along was that he’d bounce back in the coming season, and his anticipated presence became a key facet of the team’s plans as he progressed. Instead, he’ll now join prospects Jose De Leon and Brent Honeywell — both of whom underwent TJ procedures this spring — on the shelf. The Rays traded away Jake Odorizzi earlier in the winter, further paring back the organization’s depth.
Tampa Bay has been plotting an interesting approach to their pitching staff, with intentions of using four starters and then filling the fifth starter’s role with a mix of relievers. Whether or not that’ll still be the plan remains to be seen. Clearly, though, the depth will be pressed. The three remaining starters — Chris Archer, Blake Snell, and Jake Faria — will need to be supplemented, with Matt Andriese seeming a likely candidate. That’ll still mean finding another reliever capable of giving some length, with recent trade acquisition Anthony Banda among the 40-man options that had been slated to open the year on optional assignment.
Needless to say, it’s brutal news for Eovaldi, who was on the cusp of launching his comeback. He had recorded a 14:1 K/BB ratio and allowed only six earned runs in 16 2/3 innings this spring. The six-year MLB veteran has long tantalized with his skill, including an upper-nineties heater, but has never quite fully turned the corner at the game’s highest level. In 739 career innings, Eovaldi owns a 4.21 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9.