The Texas Rangers spent a lot of money on pitching during the offseason, and they hope to see a return on that investment when right-hander Nathan Eovaldi makes his club debut against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday at Arlington, Texas.
Eovaldi, who spent the last 4 1/2 seasons with the Boston Red Sox, signed a two-year, $34 million contract with Texas in December. He went 6-3 with a 3.87 ERA in 2022, when he spent two stints on the disabled list.
"He's got tremendous stuff, tremendous command, he throws strikes, he attacks the strike zone -- it's (an) aggressive mindset, '' Texas general manager Chris Young said of Eovaldi. "I think that he really fits all the criteria that we look for that we want our pitchers to be. I think he's going to set a great example for a lot of our young guys that are going to be coming along with the other pitchers that we have on staff."
The Rangers finished 23rd among MLB teams with a 4.22 ERA last season, and were 23rd in that category in 2021 with a 4.79 mark. Bucking the trend has become a priority.
Eovaldi has pitched in 240 games (221 starts) during his MLB career. He is 67-68 with a 4.16 ERA in 11 seasons and is 4-4 with a 3.36 ERA in 11 starts against Philadelphia.
The Phillies, who dropped an 11-7 decision Thursday to the Rangers on Opening Day, are expected to start right-hander Zack Wheeler. In 26 starts last season, Wheeler was 12-7 with a 2.82 ERA.
Both Wheeler and Eovaldi were All-Star selections in 2021. Wheeler is 1-1 with a 1.42 ERA in four career starts (25 1/3 innings) against the Rangers.
Each team roughed up the opposing starting pitcher on Thursday. The Phillies scored five runs and had six extra-base hits in 3 2/3 innings against Jacob deGrom, the prized free agent Texas signed in the offseason. Philadelphia starter Aaron Nola surrendered five runs on four hits in 3 2/3 innings.
The Rangers erased a 5-0 deficit by scoring nine runs in the fourth inning. Robbie Grossman tied the game with a three-run home run.
Shortstop Trea Turner, who signed an 11-year, $300 million deal with Philadelphia in December, hit leadoff in his first game with the Phillies. He went 1-for-4 with a triple and drove in a run.
"Unfortunately we didn't get the job done, but I felt like there were a lot of positives (on offense)," Turner said. "I think from top to bottom we all kind of contributed in multiple innings and it was relentless."
The Philadelphia offense took a hit during spring training, when first baseman Rhys Hoskins tore his ACL and will miss the 2023 season. The Phillies will also be without outfield Bryce Harper, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and could miss the first two months.
"It was good to be on the right side of it," Texas first baseman Nathaniel Lowe said. "You can't win a World Series today, but you surely can make a statement, and I think we did."
"We can compete with anybody," Lowe said. "Regardless of what we did last year, we're in a position where we can compete."
--Field Level Media