Healthy Ivan Nova could help the Yankees as a depth arm in his contract year


By any objective measure, the last two seasons have been a disaster for Ivan Nova. He was limited to 21 starts and 114.2 innings from 2014-15, his age 27-28 seasons, because of Tommy John surgery, and during those 114.2 innings he had a 5.65 ERA (5.24 FIP). Obviously the surgery and performance are related to some degree. Nova wasn’t healthy in 2014 and he was shaking off the rust in 2015.

Nova, now 29, reported to Spring Training last week as the sixth starter on the depth chart. Brian Cashman all but confirmed whoever doesn’t win a rotation job in camp will be the long man to start the season, and right now Nova is that guy. Being the sixth starter stinks, but it’s not all bad. Inevitably the Yankees are going to need a sixth starter. Last season 25 of the 30 teams had six starters make at least ten starts.

Regardless of role, the 2016 season is huge for Nova on a personal level because it’s his contract year, and I’m sure he wants that Ian Kennedy money next winter. Baseball pays very well, but, relatively speaking, Nova has not yet cashed in big. He received an $80,000 bonus as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic, made next to nothing in minors, and will earn a total of $8.2M or so during his six years of team control.

“He’s getting ready for his free-agent walk year. If there’s going to be a time for him to put his best foot forward, if he’s on a salary drive, this would be the year for it. Hopefully we’ll benefit from it,” said Cashman to Brendan Kuty earlier this month. Money is a great motivator and baseball players are human. Of course they put forth their very best effort in their contract years. There’s no reason to think Nova will be any different.

Nova does not have a rotation spot at the moment, though I figure that opportunity will come in time. What he does have going for him is health, at least to the extent any pitcher can have health in their favor. Nova will open the season roughly 23 months out from Tommy John surgery, and typically it takes pitchers a few months to get all the way back from elbow reconstruction. Everyone is different of course, but many need a little time to get back to normal.

“We felt that we would see a different guy this year. I was impressed with his bullpen today. I saw an arm that was very quick, probably better than any point we saw last year. I think the time off really helped him and you will see a different guy,” said Joe Girardi to George King yesterday. The other day Nova himself told Chad Jennings his arm feels “lighter” this spring than it did last season.

Even before the Tommy John surgery, Nova was unpredictable and his career had a lot of ups and downs. He had a 3.70 ERA (4.00 FIP) in 165.1 innings in 2011. Then he had a 5.02 ERA (4.60 FIP) in 170.1 innings in 2012. And then he had a 3.10 ERA (3.47 FIP) in 139.1 innings in 2013. It was impossible to know which Nova would show up start to start, nevermind year to year. Like lots of other young pitchers, Nova’s performance was volatile.

The Yankees spent much of the offseason exploring trades for Nova despite their questionable rotation depth, and I don’t blame them. It’s hard to count on him to be reliable and it’s possible the team will lose him to free agency for nothing next offseason. That said, I do think keeping Nova was a smart move. No one blew the Yankees away with an offer and Ivan figures to be more valuable to the team as a depth arm than any middling prospect he’d return in a deal.

Given his history, it’s easy to be skeptical of Nova’s ability to help the Yankees in 2016. I’d be lying if I said I was confident he’ll be a valuable member of the staff. I do know the Yankees are almost certainly going to need him to step in to make some starts at some point, and that alone makes him pretty important. That he’s further removed from Tommy John surgery and presumably motivated by his upcoming free agency at least gives us some reason to think Nova will be able to perform much better this season than he did last.

Keeping the slider down can help Severino get to the next level in 2016


The Yankees currently have six starters for five rotation spots, yet of the five, only Luis Severino did not miss time with an injury last season. The 22-year-old came up in August and made eleven mostly excellent starts, and now he’s slated to be a full-time member of the rotation in 2016. That’s exciting. The Yankees haven’t had a young MLB pitcher this promising in almost a decade.

Severino is still just a kid of course, and inevitably there will be growing pains at some point. That’s just the way it is. Hitters will adjust to him and he’ll have to adjust back, and then they’ll do it all over again, hopefully for years and years and years. Severino had a 2.89 ERA (137 ERA+) in his 62.1 innings last year, but his 1.3 HR/9 and 4.37 FIP show there is room for improvement.

“Oh, he could get better. The consistency of his pitches. The command of his fastball. And all of that will happen has he smooths out his delivery, which it seems like he has quite a bit,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild to Brendan Kuty. Severino flew through the minors — he made 65 starts and threw 320.2 innings in the minors, which is nothing — so of course he’s going to have to work on consistency and things like that.

Severino came to the big leagues billed as a three-pitch pitcher and we saw exactly that last year. He’s got a lively fastball, a promising slider, and a changeup that fell off the table when he threw it properly. Looking over the PitchFX data, there are plenty of positives to take from last season (MLB averages in parentheses).

% Thrown Avg. Velo. Whiff% GB%
Fastball 51.4% 95.8 (92.4) 8.2% (6.9%) 45.3% (37.9%)
Slider 34.1% 89.6 (84.2) 8.9% (15.2%) 58.1% (43.9%)
Changeup 14.6% 88.6 (83.3) 19.3% (14.9%) 63.2% (47.8%)

Almost all of that looks good. Severino throws all three pitches regularly and they all have well-above-average velocity, and they all get a lot of ground balls too. The fastball and changeup generated swings and misses at an above-average rate as well. The slider? Not so much.

The swing-and-miss rate on Severino’s slider was a real eyesore last season. It was far below the league average, which seems impossible after watching him live, but the numbers don’t lie. “His third pitch is a mid-80s slider thrown with power, which still takes a back seat to his fastball and changeup but projects as solid average when he’s finished developing,” said Baseball America (subs. req’d) in their scouting report prior to 2015.

The slider — specifically the ability to get whiffs with the slider — is something Severino could really improve going forward. Don’t take that as a knock. Severino was pretty awesome last season. Imagine how much more awesome he can be if he can start generating some more empty swings with his slider. He knows it’s something that can be improved too.

“My breaking stuff (can improve). Pounding the zone, throwing strikes. Getting down in the zone, throwing my breaking ball down in the zone,” said Severino to Kuty when asked about how he can get better going forward. Getting the ball down is always a good idea, and Severino ostensibly did a good job of that considering his overall ground ball rate (50.9%), but take a look at his slider pitch locations specifically (click for a larger view):

Luis Severino slider locations

That’s an awful lot of sliders up and in the zone. Ideally Severino would bury the slider down and away to righties and down and in to lefties. Last summer David Laurila culled some quotes about backup sliders, which are surprisingly effectively because they’re hard to pick up and they don’t move the way the hitter expects …

Adam Warren backup slider

… but Severino wasn’t throwing backup sliders. He was simply missing his spot, especially when you consider how many sliders were up and away to lefties. (It took me way too long to find an example of an effective backup slider. Nothing from Severino, nothing from Michael Pineda, nothing from Masahiro Tanaka, so down the line I went until I got to the now departed Adam Warren.)

Give the effectiveness of his fastball and changeup, the slider figures to be a focal point for Severino going forward, both in Spring Training and continuing into the season. The pitch has pretty good action, we saw it last year, but right now Severino elevates it a little too often, which causes problems. Once he is able to consistently locate his slider down, he’ll get more swings and misses, and it could also improve the effectiveness of his fastball. Nathan Eovaldi’s fastball played up once he emphasized the splitter. Same could happen with Severino and an improved slidepiece.

The Yankees are going to need Severino to pitch effectively this season in order to contend, even though he just turned 22 and will have to endure the usual growing pains associated with young pitchers. His workload will be monitored, stuff like that. Severino’s stuff is very good as it is, but there is an obvious way he can improve the effectiveness of his slider, and that’s by keeping it down in the zone. If he can begin to do that consistently, he’ll inch closer to his ceiling as a frontline starter.

Jose Bautista’s free agency and the way the Yankees used to do business

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Position players have not even reported to camp yet and already Spring Training has become monotonous. We’re just kinda going through the motions and waiting for Grapefruit League games to begin next week. As far as the Yankees are concerned, things have been quiet. No news is good news in mid-February.

Things are not so quiet elsewhere in the AL East. Impending free agent Jose Bautista told reporters yesterday he recently met with the Blue Jays and laid out exactly what it will take to sign him to an extension. He also said he’s not giving them any sort of hometown discount. From Shi Davidi:

“I’m not willing to negotiate even right now,” he said. “I don’t think there should be any negotiation. I think I’ve proved myself and the question has been asked, what will it take, and I’ve given them an answer. It is what it is. I’m not going to sit here and try to bargain for a couple dollars.”

“I didn’t want to waste any time,” he said. “If this is going to happen, I think it should be natural, organic, quick and easy, it shouldn’t be a pull and tug about a few dollars here or there. I didn’t want to waste any time, I didn’t want to waste their time or their effort, so they can start planning ahead, and if it’s not going to happen they have plenty of time to do so … There’s no negotiation, I told them what I wanted. They either meet it or it is what it is.”

I’m sure the Blue Jays appreciate Bautista being up front, but that’s bad news for them. Unless Toronto ups payroll considerably — they certainly have the ability to do so, Rogers Communication is frickin’ massive — the team might not be able to sign their franchise cornerstone after the season.

A few years ago — perhaps even as recently as two or three years ago — Bautista’s comments would have been music to our ears. Bautista is the perfect Yankees free agent target. He hits dingers, he gets on base, he’s been through the AL East grind, he’d help balance the lineup as a right-handed hitter, and he’s step right into right field to replace Carlos Beltran. He’s perfect. Aaron Judge? Who needs Aaron Judge when you can have Jose Bautista. Sign Bautista and trade Judge for an arm. It’s a win-win.

That’s the way the Yankees used to do business. Sign the big name free agent who fits the roster so wonderfully and to hell with the prospect (who, by the way, also fits the roster wonderfully). The Yankees signed Jason Giambi when they had an elite first base prospect knocking on the door in Nick Johnson. Why? Because Giambi was a boss and Johnson was an unknown, and the Yankees weren’t in the business of the unknown. They wanted stars.

Of course, the Bautista contract would be a land mine. He turns 36 years old in October and it’s probably doing to take something like three years and $25M per season to sign him. Maybe even a fourth guaranteed year if he winds up on the open market. All the goodwill he built in Toronto would be useless to the Yankees. The Blue Jays got his best years and New York would get the ugly decline. The contract would be almost all downside.

That old way of thinking — sign the big free agent and who cares about everything else — is no more, at least for the time being. Maybe the Yankees will go back to doing business that way down the line. Right now the Yankees are skewing young whenever possible and trying to create financial flexibility. Financial flexibility for what? Who knows. Maybe Bryce Harper, maybe Manny Machado and Matt Harvey, maybe Hal Steinbrenner’s summer home. Either way, the Yankees are now avoiding the kind of big money deal it would take to acquire the last few seasons of Bautista’s career.

Remember when CC Sabathia was entering his walk year? We hung on every word about a possible extension. Yet when Bautista’s comments came out yesterday, it barely registered as a blip on the radar in Yankeeland. We’ve all grown accustomed to the way team does business now. On paper, Bautista fits the roster well, and yesterday’s news seems to make it more likely he will hit the open market next winter. Bautista’s free agency would of interest to the old Yankees. These new Yankees don’t build their roster that way and for good reason.

Open Thread: February 22nd Camp Notes


Earlier today Brian Cashman confirmed to Bryan Hoch the Yankees have indeed signed first baseman Chris Parmelee to a minor league contract. He’ll be in camp as a non-roster player, so the Yankees are up to 69 players in big league Spring Training. Nice. Cashman stated the obvious: Parmelee is replacing the injured Greg Bird as the team’s Triple-A first baseman. Here are today’s photos and here are today’s notes:

  • Chad Jennings has the day’s workout groups. Masahiro Tanaka, Ivan Nova, and Michael Pineda were among those to throw bullpens while Luis Severino, Nathan Eovaldi, James Kaprielian, and others faced hitters in live batting practice. Tanaka felt fine. “He’s where we want him to be. So far, there have been no hitches or anything,” said pitching coach Larry Rothschild. [Hoch]
  • Carlos Beltran specifically requested to be locker neighbors with Aaron Judge so he can mentor him. “I guess Carlos is feeling this is the heir apparent to right field and whatever Carlos has to offer, he wants to give it to Aaron,” said equipment manager Rob Cucuzza. Pretty cool. Judge said his goal this season is to improve his selectivity at the plate. [Brendan Kuty, Meredith Marakovits]
  • Aroldis Chapman was not in camp today for personal reasons. He’ll be back tomorrow. It was an excused absence — the Yankees knew about it a week ago — and it has nothing to do with any potential discipline stemming from his domestic dispute incident. Just a personal day. That’s all. [George King]
  • As part of their annual media training mini-camp, the Yankees showed players video clips of Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, John Wall, Lawrence Taylor, Rob Gronkowski, Billy Wagner, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez. Basically a “do this, don’t do that” kind of thing. [Andrew Marchand, Ryan Hatch]
  • And finally, Slade Heathcott nearly ran into his first outfield wall of the spring today. The games haven’t even started yet! Still plenty of time for wall-crashing, Slade. [Marchand]

This is the nightly open thread. The Knicks are playing and there’s some college basketball on the schedule too. That’s about it. Discuss those games or any of the Spring Training happenings right here.

Cashman “doesn’t anticipate” making any moves prior to Opening Day

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

The Yankees have a recent history of making roster upgrades — minor upgrades, but upgrades nonetheless — in Spring Training, most notably landing Chris Stewart in 2012 and Shawn Kelley in 2013. There are still some decent free agents available and reportedly plenty of teams are still looking to swing trades. The opportunity to upgrade is there.

As Brian Cashman tells it, the Yankees are unlikely to make any moves prior to Opening Day. The GM told Brendan Kuty he “doesn’t anticipate anything in the short term,” though of course that could change in an instant. “I think I spent all winter trying to explore all options and every opportunity that was available. This is the result of those efforts,” he added. “That doesn’t stop. It never should stop.”

Before he signed with the White Sox today, I half expected Jimmy Rollins to stroll into camp when position players report Wednesday. Generally speaking though, I don’t think there are any available free agents who are worth guaranteeing a big league roster spot right now. Juan Uribe was the last one who made sense for the Yankees, and I don’t blame him for taking a starting job with the Indians over a bench job in New York. Tim Lincecum? Cliff Lee? Eh.

Trades? Who knows. Those things come out of nowhere. (Reminder: Brett Gardner to the Angels still makes sense.) I’m interested to see MLBTR’s annual list of out of options players next month. There could be a fit for the Yankees there, maybe a utility player for the last bench sport or even an arm worth a flier in middle relief. That’s how the Yankees ended up with Kelley.

The Yankees are committed to using their farm system now and they’re going young wherever possible. They seem more likely to plug any roster hole from within than go outside the organization. You can never rule anything out, these are the Yankees, but I would be surprised if they made any of kind of move that changed the Opening Day roster outlook this spring.

Kaprielian could continue trend of pitchers reaching MLB the year after being drafted


Last season marked the beginning of a new era of Yankees baseball. Not only did Derek Jeter retire, they also emphasized young players. They’ve talked about doing that in the past but never followed through with it. Last year they did. The Yankees traded for young players and they called up prospects whenever a roster spot needed to be filled. It was refreshing.

The Yankees doubled down on the young player strategy this offseason. They traded for 20-somethings Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks (and Aroldis Chapman), they’re giving Luis Severino a full-time rotation spot, and chances are Gary Sanchez will spend the bulk of the season as the backup catcher. The Yankees could have easily signed a free agent or two to plug roster holes. They instead showed uncharacteristic restraint.

The next wave of prospects this summer will include Sanchez, maybe Aaron Judge, and surely a ton of relievers. It’s also been speculated (by me, mostly) the Yankees could turn to 2015 first round pick James Kaprielian at some point should they need rotation help. The Yankees invited Kaprielian to Spring Training, which is not insignificant. They haven’t invited a first rounder to big league camp in his first full season in a long time. They want to see him up close.

“Physically, he’s very gifted,” said farm system head Gary Denbo to Bryan Hoch. “I think he’s a guy that could probably step off the mound and go play some other positions. He’s that kind of an athlete. We’ll see how he’s able to develop and gain experience, but I think this camp is going to be very valuable for him. We hope that he develops quickly and he’s able to help us in the rotation as soon as possible.”

There is precedent for the Yankees pushing a pitcher to the big leagues within a year of the draft. They did it last year with Jacob Lindgren, though that was a special case because he’s a reliever. They did it back in 2007 … twice. Joba Chamberlain made 15 starts in the minors and was in the show by mid-August as a reliever. Ian Kennedy made 25 starts in the minors before joining New York’s rotation in September. Both were 2006 draftees.

Bringing pitchers to the show the season after the draft was still pretty rare back then. Now it’s becoming a bit more common. Since Joba and Kennedy in 2007, other pitchers like Aaron Nola, Carlos Rodon, Brandon Finnegan, Chris Sale, Trevor Bauer, Mike Leake, and David Price all reached the big leagues the year after being drafted. All but Bauer had instant success too. Teams aren’t just letting these guys get their feet wet. They’re counting on them to help.

“Hopefully James could be one of those guys,” said Brian Cashman to Brendan Kuty when asked about Kaprielian possibly following the 2007 Joba/Kennedy path in 2016. “Listen, if somebody is better down (in the minors) than anything we have up here, then we will expedite the process … You can’t ever deny anybody that has the ability to impact and help you win games now.”

Kaprielian, 22 in March, absolutely needs time in the minors to refine his game. He has an impressive four-pitch arsenal — his four-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup all rate as average or better — and he throws strikes with everything, which is a pretty great recipe for a quick moving starter. Kaprielian is used to pressure; he helped UCLA win a College World Series title and he’s been the ace of a major college program. Granted, that’s nothing compared to the pressure he’ll face in pinstripes, but it’s not insignificant either.

“It’s exciting, but at the same time, I just want to take it day to day,” said Kaprielian to Hoch when asked about rubbing elbows with big leaguers in Spring Training. “One of the biggest things that I believe is you can’t look too far ahead. I’m just trying to be present every single day. If I’m able to do that, I think I’m going to put myself in a good opportunity for the future just by being present now and working for now.”

The Yankees have quite a bit of injury risk in their rotation. We all know that. There’s a reason they traded Justin Wilson for two Triple-A starters. They needed the inventory. Kaprielian’s situation is different than Luis Cessa‘s and Chad Green‘s, however. Cessa and Green are candidates to come up and fill-in whenever the Yankees need a spot starter or a rotation stopgap. They’re not long-term building blocks — maybe they become one, but that’s not the plan — they’re depth.

Kaprielian should not be brought up under those circumstances and I don’t think he will. If the Yankees do bring him up this coming season, it’ll be because he’s big league ready and because he has a chance to make an impact. That’s exactly what they did with Luis Severino last season. He was big league ready — I didn’t think he was, so that shows what I know — and he was someone who could actually help the Yankees win, so they called him up. It was perfect.

That’s the path we want Kaprielian to follow. We — and by we I mean fans and the Yankees themselves — want Kaprielian to shove in the minors, leave no doubt he’s prepared for the highest level, then come up and contribute to a contending club. And you know what? That might not happen. Expectations might be a little too high right now. (I’ll take the blame for that.) Kaprielian could struggle, he could get hurt (pitchers are known to do that) … any number of things could happen.

Regardless of what happens this year, the Yankees are again going to rely on their farm system this summer, and Kaprielian has a chance to be part of that equation, even if it’s only very late in the season to make some spot starts. He has the ability to join pitchers like Nola and Rodon by reaching the big leagues the year after being drafted. He’s certainly in an organization that figures to need arms. It’s a good situation for him. And if the Yankees get help from Kaprielian this year, then it’s a great situation for them.

“Obviously, I’m not fighting for a spot in the Yankees’ starting rotation right now, but in the future, hopefully,” Kaprielian said to Hoch. “I want to continue to get better, and I think that’s a big thing for me, just trying to get better every day and get that opportunity.”

Eovaldi plans to work on his curveball in Spring Training, but it may not be worth the effort


The 2015 season was something of a developmental year for Nathan Eovaldi. The Yankees acquired him from the Marlins expecting him to hold down a regular rotation spot, and he did that, but they also wanted pitching coach Larry Rothschild to tinker with some things in hope of getting Eovaldi to the next level. His natural gifts are obvious. The results did not match though.

Last season’s big project was the split-finger fastball. Eovaldi came over from Miami with a huge fastball — he threw the six fastest pitches in baseball among non-Aroldis Chapman pitchers in 2015 — and iffy secondary stuff, so the Yankees wanted to give him a swing-and-miss pitch. Rothschild had Eovaldi begin the season with a forkball just so he could get accustomed to the grip before shortening him up to a traditional splitter grip.

Once he switched to the splitter, the results improved greatly. The date of the switch is fairly obvious when looking at Eovaldi’s velocity. In the middle of June the splitter/forkball (splorkball?) went from averaging 85.5 mph to 89.8 mph. The pitch added roughly 4 mph from one start to the next.

Nathan Eovaldi splitter velocityWith the forkball grip Eovaldi had a 4.95 ERA (3.95 FIP) with a 15.8% strikeout rate and a 49.0% ground ball rate in 76.1 innings. With the splitter grip he had a 3.46 ERA (2.90 FIP) with a 20.2% strikeout rate and a 55.8% ground ball rate in 78 innings. The splitter changed everything. Eovaldi was comfortable throwing the pitch — he threw the forkball 10.9% of the time and the splitter 29.7% of the time — and his results improved considerably.

Having a full season of splitter grip Nathan Eovaldi in 2016 is pretty exciting. The development is not going to stop there through. Last week Eovaldi told Chad Jennings he intends to focus on his curveball this spring in an effort to add another reliable secondary pitch.

“Towards the end of the season last year I really developed pretty good control of my split,” he said. “This offseason it’s been great. I’m going to be using that more, of course. The fastball, too. Then, working on the curveball a little bit more, as well.”

The splitter was a new pitch for Eovaldi. The curveball is not. He threw one as an amateur, he threw one in the minors, and he’s thrown out throughout his big league career. Over the last four seasons Eovaldi has thrown the curve anywhere between 8.8% of the time to 9.4% of the time per PitchFX. He got one (1) strikeout on a curveball last season and it wasn’t even that good of a pitch:

Nathan Eovaldi curveball

Chris Davis was looking for something else and Eovaldi froze him with a not great bender up in the zone. It’s loopy and just sorta rolls in there. Hooray for the element of surprise.

Anyway, the curveball was clearly Eovaldi’s fourth best pitch last season behind his fastball, splitter, and slider. It was his third best pitch until the split-finger knocked it down a peg on the depth chart. Given the results over the years, de-emphasizing the curveball is a smart move:

Velo Whiff% GB% Opp. AVG Opp. ISO
2012 75.3 4.8% 36.7% .278 .222
2013 78.3 6.6% 68.2% .310 .138
2014 76.8 10.9% 53.3% .246 .098
2015 76.2 6.8% 50.0% .286 .107
MLB AVG 77.8 11.1% 48.7% .208 .116

Eovaldi’s curveball has not been an effective pitch at all. He’s been able to get some ground balls with it, but the lack of swings and misses is a problem, as evidenced by the opponent’s batting average against the pitch. The curveball used to be Eovaldi’s third best pitch. Now it’s his fourth. That’s where it belongs.

Spring Training is the best time to toy with pitches and Eovaldi’s smart to work on his curveball this spring. I do wonder whether the pitch is worth the effort, however. This is a pitch he’s been throwing his entire career — we’re talking hundreds of innings here — and Eovaldi has not yet been able to refine it to the point of reliability. Perhaps Rothschild can help. I guess we’ll find out this spring.

The addition of the splitter was huge for Eovaldi last year because it gave him the swing-and-miss offering he desperately needed. It also knocked his slider down a peg, which is good, because his slider isn’t great either. The split gave Eovaldi a legitimate put-away pitch. Here is what Eovaldi was worked with once he switched from the forkball grip to the splitter grip. League averages are in parentheses.

% Thrown Velo. Whiff% GB% Opp. AVG Opp. ISO
FB 44.0% 98.2 (92.4) 7.3% (6.9%) 44.1% (37.9%) .262 (.271) .094 (.180)
SPL 28.7% 89.7 (84.3) 16.8% (14.9%) 69.9% (47.8%) .211 (.223) .023 (.132)
SL 19.6% 85.4 (84.2) 11.7% (15.2%) 50.9% (43.9%) .278 (.223) .058 (.136)
CB 7.8% 76.9 (77.8) 4.5% (11.1%) 40.0% (48.7%) .273 (.208) .000 (.116)

The splitter gave Eovaldi a bonafide above-average pitch. It got whiffs and grounders, and he threw it a lot. Perfect. His fastball was also a tick above average as well. Both his slider and curveball were below-average though, with the slider showing some more promise thanks to the ground ball ability.

Eovaldi’s curveball wasn’t good at anything. Didn’t get grounders, didn’t get whiffs, nothing. He didn’t throw it much at all and for good reason. It’s not a good pitch. I wonder if Eovaldi is best off scrapping his curveball entirely — or using it even less, maybe as nothing more than a surprise pitch he throws once or twice a game early in the count when hitters sit fastball — and focusing his efforts on his slider this spring.

The way I see, Eovaldi will primarily be a fastball/splitter pitcher going forward. Those are his top two weapons for pretty obvious reasons. He needs a third pitch, definitely, and his slider is ahead of his curveball. It is right now and has been his entire career. Remember, we’re talking about a third pitch here. It doesn’t need to be great, just something hitters respect. The slider is much closer to that right now than the curve.

There’s nothing wrong with playing around with different pitches in Spring Training. It’s the perfect time to do it. And who knows, maybe Rothschild will tweak Eovaldi’s curveball grip and the pitch turns into a hammer. It’s unlikely but stranger things have happened. Unless the curve does take a step forward these next few weeks, it’s not a pitch worth emphasizing in the regular season. Stick with the fastball, splitter, and some sliders. The curve is trouble.