Cash envisions leadership role for Eovaldi

Cash envisions leadership role for Eovaldi

NEW YORK -- Due to the two elbow surgeries he underwent as a Yankee toward the end of last season -- one of them Tommy John -- Nathan Eovaldi has not thrown a pitch in a Rays uniform since signing with the team earlier this year.

But the Rays have been encouraged by his rehab outings. Most recently, manager Kevin Cash said, Eovaldi's fastball stayed in the upper 90s, with his splitter around 90 mph, during his one inning of work on Monday with Double-A Montgomery. Eovaldi was expected to toss another inning of relief with Triple-A Durham on Wednesday.

"He's done really well in his rehab," Cash said before the Rays played the Yankees at Citi Field.

The plan is for Eovaldi to enter the offseason fully healthy so he can experience a normal winter. The Rays had hoped to have him throw between 10 and 15 innings for their instructional league in Florida on top of his current rehab assignment, but Hurricane Irma has thrown a temporary wrench into that plan.

Looking ahead to next season, Cash projects Eovaldi to join the rotation as a veteran presence to complement the younger staff.

"We're going to have a lot of options to go through," Cash said. "[We're] excited where he's come from. Our goal with Nate was, basically, to get him through the rehab process, try to get him some innings and basically let him have a normal offseason. Come in, ramp it up as a starting pitcher and join our rotation next year."

Cash, who recently watched Eovaldi toss a simulated game, does not envision putting him on much of a limit during Spring Training or the early parts of the season. Cash is also impressed with the way Eovaldi has handled his rehab.

"It's not an easy thing to do," Cash said. "You sign a new contract, you come to a new club, new training staff, and you're not really contributing. That's tough. He's carried himself about as best as you could. The guys enjoy being around him. We all enjoy being around him. He brings energy. [I'm] looking forward to him getting on the field and continuing having success."

Chris Bumbaca is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York and covered the Rays on Wednesday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.