Should the Dodgers move Nathan Eovaldi to the Bullpen?


With the signings of Chris Capuano, and Aaron Harang, the Dodgers have now finally set their rotation for 2012. Here is a question, where does this leave Nathan Eovaldi?

We’ve heard rumors from various sources claiming GM Ned Colletti is considering moving him to the bullpen for 2012. Wait, didn’t we already try this before? oh yes we did. Now how did that turn out…well……

Not so good. Before we get into the numbers, Eovaldi was being considered to take a spot in the rotation for 2012. Eovaldi is the rookie pitcher from Alvin, Texas, the same hometown as Nolan Ryan. The 21-year old right hander was an 11th round draft pick in the 2008 amateur draft. Last year Eovaldi was asked to pitch when Rubby De La Rosa, last years top pitching prospect succumbed to Tommy John surgery. On August 6th, of 2011, Nathan Eovaldi made his first MLB start. He pitched 5 innings, allowing only two runs off four hits, and whiffed 7 Diamondbacks en route to his first win.

Last week I had suggested that Eovaldi could be a 5th starter, but the Dodgers had other ideas. With the recent signings, it looks like Eovaldi will start the year in Albuquerque. Now Colletti is thinking about putting him in the bullpen, maybe as a long man? The Dodgers ended up moving Eovaldi to the bullpen for September. If I remember correctly, he wasn’t very good out of relief. I know it’s a small sample size, as his entire year was, but still the results weren’t very good.

If we look at Eovaldi’s numbers last year, he put up a 1-2 record, with a 3.63 ERA overall. But his strikeout to walk numbers were very poor. His line in 2011 was 23/20 K/BB. This was in 10 games, and six in relief, and 34.2 innings pitched.

Now as a reliever in four games, and two and two thirds of work, his ERA is 10.13, (small sample I know) and in those four games, he walked three and struck out none. The thing is if we take a look at Eovaldi’s minor league numbers, he has almost zero experience as a reliever. He has been primarily a starting pitcher. So should we be switching him to the bullpen at this point?

Last year with double AA Chattanooga, he started in 19 of the 20 game he pitched. His numbers overall in Chattanooga were still pretty good. 6-5 2.62 ERA, 103 innings, 8.7 SO/9. The walks are what kill Eovaldi, as they do many young pitchers. His walks per nine in Chattanooga last year was 4.0 and with the Dodgers it was 5.2. Yikes! regardless of what role he pitches out of, he is going to have to keep his walks down.

One of Eovaldi’s strengths though, is he very rarely allows home runs. In Chattanooga he only allowed 0.3 home runs per nine. That is a very low number. Still I don’t think the Dodgers were completely sold on him, which is why they made the signings they made this winter. Last year Mattingly moved him to the bullpen to keep the stress and innings off of his young arm. The move made sense, until we saw Eovaldi struggling in those relief appearances. I know it is small sample but it could be a sign of a developing pattern. Perhaps it would be better for Eovaldi to start the year in the minors and get more seasoning. He needs to work on his control, limiting his walks. What do you think guys? Should Eovaldi be moved to the bullpen? Or should he remain as a starter and get more experience down in Chattanooga? What do you think?