Marlins | Nathan Eovaldi

Nathan Eovaldi continues to evolve as Miami Marlins’ No. 3 starter

 

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

It took almost a year, but Marlins pitcher Nathan Eovaldi finally responded to a nagging request from veteran catcher John Buck.

Eovaldi delivered his reply Sunday in the form of a rare two-seam fastball, which tailed in toward Buck as he batted for the Mets.

“I kind of looked at him, and he kind of smiled back at me [from the mound], like, ‘Yeah, that was it,’ ’’ Buck recalled with a grin.

The background of that light moment goes back to July, after Eovaldi came to the Marlins in the trade that sent Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Buck, Miami’s starting catcher at the time, was among Marlins players who quickly recognized Eovaldi’s potential. He started pestering him at least once a week to add a two-seam fastball to his repertoire.

A two-seam fastball tails toward a right-handed batter and away from a left-handed hitter — movement Buck is convinced will make Eovaldi more effective.

Eovaldi, however, isn’t ready to throw the two-seamer regularly just yet. He didn’t throw any Friday in four innings in Miami’s 6-1 win over the Yankees.

He’s happy to rely on his four-seam fastball, which is nasty in its own right with a quick rising movement.

“That fastball is explosive,’’ said Marlins catcher Rob Brantly. “He’s got a different kind of release point that most hitters aren’t used to seeing. It comes out at 98 miles an hour. It just kind of jumps on you really quick. He’s got lightning stuff.’’

For all his promise, Eovaldi, 23, is still a work in progress. He allowed a run on four hits Friday but walked three.

Still, he became the first Marlins pitcher to work four innings, throwing 60 pitches. He’s 2-0 with a 4.15 ERA in his three spring starts.

Buck said he noticed big improvement from Eovaldi on Sunday.

“Before, when he threw his breaking ball, he would slow down his delivery. But he looked nice and fluid with all of his pitches,’’ Buck said.

“He’s one of those guys that I think as soon as he really buys into himself and really knows himself, he can be a definite 20-game winner.’’

Eovaldi figures to slot third in the rotation, although he could move up to second depending on how quickly Jacob Turner can fix his mechanical issues.

Turner — who will start today in Jupiter against the Cardinals — came to the Marlins from the Detroit Tigers two days before the Dodgers sent Eovaldi to Miami, giving the Marlins hope they’d obtained two formidable starters.

While Turner is considered a more seasoned pitcher, Eovaldi has the best stuff.

Eovaldi was selected in the 11th round of the 2008 draft, a late selection because of elbow surgery in his junior year of high school.

He was called up in 2011 and went 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA in 10 appearances, including six starts. He started off the 2012 season going 1-6 with a 4.15 ERA in 10 starts before he was traded.

He started 12 games for Miami, going 3-7 with a 4.43 ERA. The Marlins are counting on Eovaldi to make strides in 2013.

“He’s developing as young pitcher. The raw talent is definitely there,” Marlins general manager Mike hill said. “He has the making of three quality major-league pitches.

“At times, we have seen them all there, the fastball, the breaking ball and the changeup. We’re just looking for him to get more consistency and throw more strikes. Hopefully that will lead to a very good year for him.’’

Pitcher Michael Wuertz was released, reliever Scott Maine was optioned to Class AAA New Orleans and infielder Derek Dietrich was reassigned to minor-league camp. The Marlins have 61 players in camp.

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