At some point the Yankees are going to need to take the training wheels off Nathan Eovaldi and figure out whether he’s a reliable starter or just another pitcher racking up mediocre innings and giving ulcers to Yankee Universe.
In my opinion, that point should have been Tuesday night. Instead, Eovaldi, who has thrown over 6.0 IP just once in his last 10 starts, was pulled, having thrown just 86 pitches across 5.1 IP. Eovaldi had given up just 2 ER and nobody was on base but Girardi had seen enough and lifted Eovaldi in favor of Chasen Shreve.
The move blew up in Girardi's face, as Shreve gave up a game tying HR to Billy Butler, a hit from which the Yankees would never recover in their 4-3 loss to the hapless (against everyone except the Yankees) Oakland A’s.
After the game, during his post-game interview on the YES Network, Girardi explained that he had a fresh bullpen and, with the dangerous ABs Josh Reddick had against Eovaldi, he decided to make the move. He confirmed that, with the same facts, he would do the same thing all over again.
That statement is troubling. Yes, Eovaldi has struggled during his third time through a line-up and, yes, his trend of giving up way more hits than innings pitched has continued. Despite all this, Eovaldi should have been given a longer leash than he received. Even before the top of the 6th inning started, Shreve was up and throwing in the pen. On the game broadcast, Michael Kay asked Al Leiter if he was surprised to see Shreve up and, after checking Eovaldi’s pitch count, Leiter bluntly said, “Yes.”
With Eovaldi's pitching against a team with one of the worst offenses in the league, and with only having thrown 86 pitches, you should at least go batter to batter with him. With Shreve up and pitching before the inning started, it was clear that Girardi had zero faith in Eovaldi to make it through the 4-6 hitters in Oakland’s lineup.
That can’t feel good for Eovaldi and, for a team with playoff aspirations, it’s simply untenable. If Eovaldi can’t handle the A’s, what’s he going to do when he faces the Orioles or the Blue Jays? Will Girardi have Adam Warren up in the first inning in those games?
The Yankees can’t hide Eovaldi forever. Nobody is suggesting you throw him into the ocean but he needs to dip his toe in the surf. They brought the righty here knowing who he was and who they needed him to be for him to succeed. Now it’s time to find out if he’s capable of meeting those expectations.