Tuesday newsletter time: Nathan Eovaldi locks up May pitching honor vs. Tigers
(AP photo/Duane Burleson)
Nothing will be official until Friday or Saturday, but Rangers right-hander Nathan Eovaldi has sewn up the American League Pitcher of the Month for May.
He didn’t have his best start of the month Monday, but he added five scoreless innings as the Rangers blanked the Tigers 5-0. Eovaldi allowed four hits and three walks, and needed 95 pitches to get 15 outs. He struck out only four.
But he made the pitches of the game in the second inning, when Detroit loaded the bases with no outs. Eric Haase, though, rolled into a fielder’s choice, with Nate Lowe throwing home for the out, and former Rangers infielder Andy Ibanez bounced into an inning-ending double play.
The Rangers finally broke through in the fifth as Corey Seager connected for a two-out three-run homer. He also drove in a run in the Rangers’ two-run seventh, and triggered the Ibanez double play in the second.
Eovaldi posted a shutdown inning in the fifth, which lowered his May ERA to 0.96. He went 4-0 in five starts and struck out 31 while walking nine.
There are other candidates, including Twins right-hander Joe Ryan and Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan. Eovaldi’s teammate, Jon Gray, has had a very good May (1.95) as well.
Eovaldi, though, locked up the May honor Monday.
Eovaldi’s relatively short day meant the bullpen would have to work four innings to preserve the series-opening victory at Comerica Park. The Rangers turned to Brock Burke, Jonathan Hernandez and Jose Leclerc.
That’s the way it was supposed to be to start the season. Fans might have been freaking out a little Monday as each was called upon. Worry not, though, as the trio was up to the task.
Burke worked a clean sixth, and Hernandez nursed a five-run cushion with two scoreless innings on a hit and a walk. Leclerc issued a walk in the ninth, but that was all.
With the trade deadline still two months away, immediate bullpen improvement is going to have to come from within. The Rangers did purchase the Triple A contract of right-hander Grant Anderson on Monday, but he could be on the way back to Round Rock quickly with Dane Dunning on his way back from the patentity list.
The Rangers need Hernandez and Leclerc to figure things out. If they do, the Rangers will still attempt to add relievers at the trade deadline to create a deeper bullpen.
Monday’s performances were a positive step.
The Rangers had to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Anderson, and they did so by designating right-handed prospect Ricky Vanasco for assignment.
Vanasco has a 20-something ERA at Double A Frisco, though in only two short outings since returning from the injured list after knee surgery toward the end of spring training. He might have just gotten caught up in a numbers game rather than a performance shortcoming.
The Rangers don’t have much flexibility on the 40-man roster after protecting several prospects from the Rule 5 draft the past two offseasons. It’s to the point where the Rangers will have to start trimming prospects if they want to add players to the 40-man or make some tough calls with players on the major-league roster.
More could be coming when Glenn Otto, Spencer Howard and Brett Martin come off the 60-day injured list and must be added back to the 40-man.
The hope, of course, is that Vanasco clears waivers and goes back to Frisco. He has a big arm, hence the Rangers protecting him from the Rule 5 after the 2021 season even though he had never pitched above Low A.
But that arm might be tempting enough for a team like Oakland or Kansas City to take a chance with him.
Instant regret…😅 pic.twitter.com/oow71f51nT
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Jeff Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org