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Could Nathan Eovaldi Be Headed Toward Relief Role With Dodgers?

Will Nathan Eovaldi's next pitch as a Dodger be thrown as a starter or in relief?
Will Nathan Eovaldi's next pitch as a Dodger be thrown as a starter or in relief?

Saturday night in Chattanooga, Nathan Eovaldi was scheduled to start for the Lookouts but instead pitched an inning in relief, striking out all three batters he faced in the sixth inning of their 13-10 loss to the Jacksonville Suns. The switch to relief is notable as Eovaldi is sixth on the depth chart among Dodgers starters.

The Dodgers have often with their top pitching prospects either skipped a start or had them throw an inning as a way to limit innings, but it seems too early for Eovaldi to have such a start, as he has essentially done the same thing three times already this season.

Eovaldi pitched one inning on April 19 as a precaution as Chad Billingsley was dealing with a groin issue a few days before a scheduled start in Houston, and then six days later Eovaldi again pitched one inning two days before getting recalled as an extra bullpen arm for a series against Atlanta, though Eovaldi ended up not pitching during his three days with the Dodgers.

Manager Don Mattingly played coy when asked if Eovaldi's switch to the bullpen Saturday night was related to anything with his 25-man major league roster.

"I guess it could be," Mattingly said.

With his starting staff presumably healthy, as there have been no reports of any injuries to the starting pitchers, might Eovaldi find a quicker path to the Dodgers in the bullpen? On this topic, Mattingly had an answer.

"Long term we definitely look at him as a starter," Mattingly said. "There is a possibility he could pitch out of the pen too. we tried it a little bit last year. I know Rick believes you can bring a guy up and help him grow as he is in the pen. It's an option to be able to do that."

As for when that would happen, that is the great unanswered question. With Matt Guerrier out until after the All-Star break, the bullpen could use an extra arm, especially one like the 22-year old Eovaldi. Todd Coffey would seem to be the odd man out with his 8.53 ERA in nine appearances, but it might be too early to cut bait. Then again, the Dodgers ate $1 million in cutting Mike MacDougal after just seven games.

Coffey has a 3.38 ERA in his six sporadic relief appearances since returning from the disabled list on April 30, but opposing batters have hit .316/.417/.526. Coffey is owed $1 million this season, and has a $300,000 buyout of a $2.5 million club option next year

Moving Eovaldi to the bullpen would leave the Dodgers with a sixth starter spot filled with hope and wishful thinking at this point, but that is an issue the club is reportedly trying to rectify. Peter Gammons of MLB Network reported that the Dodgers worked out Roy Oswalt on Friday, and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported Oswalt's asking price of a pro-rated $7.5 million salary was deemed "excessive" by the Dodgers.

Starting Lineups

Today could be the last hurrah for the right-handed mashing duo of Scott Van Slyke and Jerry Sands, as one of them will likely return to Triple A Albuquerque when Matt Kemp returns Tuesday, and Juan Rivera will likely be activated by the end of the week. Both Van Slyke and Sands are in the lineup against the lefty J.A. Happ of the Houston Astros.

Today is the sixth straight Chris Capuano start caught by Matt Treanor.

Astros Dodgers
2B Altuve CF Gwynn (L)
SS Lowrie (S) 2B Herrera (S)
LF Martinez 3B Hairston
1B Lee RF Ethier (L)
RF Downs 1B Van Slyke
CF Maxwell LF Sands
3B Johnson C Treanor
C Snyder SS Gordon (L)
P Happ (L) P Capuano (L)

Game Time: 1:10 p.m.

TV: Prime Ticket

MLB Gameday