Rays journal: Nathan Eovaldi eager to face his former Yankees team on Friday

Rays pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, shown here Sunday against the Mariners at Tropicana Field, faces his old team the Yankees on Friday night at Yankee Stadium. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Times]
Rays pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, shown here Sunday against the Mariners at Tropicana Field, faces his old team the Yankees on Friday night at Yankee Stadium. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published June 14 2018

NEW YORK — Having spent the 2015-16 seasons with the Yankees, Nathan Eovaldi spent time before Thursday's game visiting with some of his former teammates.

But by the time the Rays right-hander takes the mound against them Friday night, he said there won't be any fuzzy feelings about his friends or a familiar mound, but it will be all business against a power-packed lineup.

"I feel like it's more of the competition,'' Eovaldi said. "I feel like the competition is going to be the best that I've faced coming off the DL so far, and that's what I'm most excited for.''

Eovaldi said he still keeps in contact with some of his ex-Yankees mate — predictably more pitchers than hitters — and liked playing in pinstripes, though his 2016 season was cut short with the elbow injury leading to Tommy John surgery.

"I thought it went good,'' he said. "My first year there of course I did a lot better than the second. I wish I would have been able to finish on a healthy note, but other than that I really enjoyed my time there.''

While some young players could be overwhelmed or overly emotional in making such a return, manager Kevin Cash said he has no worries about the 28-year-old Eovaldi.

"I really don't," Cash said. "I know Nate really appreciated his time here, but I'm not overly concerned. Nate is so focused on what he's doing and kind of his surroundings. He's thrown the ball well for us since he's gotten back. I think that focus won't change, and it won't change just because he's facing a former team.''

Medical matters

LHP Anthony Banda, the most advanced prospect acquired in the spring trade of OF Steven Souza Jr. to Arizona, had Tommy John surgery Thursday by Dr. James Andrews and is expected to be out until 2020. "That is too bad,'' Cash said. "Exciting young arm. A lot of our exciting young arms have gotten this.'' … In addition to RHPs Jose De Leon and Brent Honeywell, there is now another: RHP Drew Strotman, a 2017 fourth-round draft pick who starred at Hudson Valley and moved up this year to Class A Bowling Green, also had TJ surgery this week. … Two-way prospect LHP/1B Brendan McKay, who pitched ineffectively Monday for the advanced Class A Stone Crabs at Dunedin, is sidelined with a mild right-oblique strain. … OF Kevin Kiermaier (right thumb surgery) and SS Adeiny Hechavarria (hamstring strain) are shifting their rehab assignments from the Stone Crabs (who are on All-Star break) to Triple-A Durham for the weekend. … INF Daniel Robertson (hamstring) had "a good day" and is on track to rejoin the team when eligible June 22, Cash said. He added that RHP Chris Archer, sidelined indefinitely with an abdominal strain, is also doing well and likely will play catch Friday.

Couple of kids in big city

Rays rookie INFs Willy Adames and Jake Bauers were excited for their first experience playing at Yankee Stadium. Though Bauers grew up in Southern California, he said it was still a big deal, especially with his dad, Stu, being from New Jersey. For Adames, growing up in the Dominican Republic and with dozens of relatives and friends having relocated to New York and coming to the weekend games, including a cousin whose Queens barbershop he visited Thursday morning, it's even bigger. "For me it's going to be really special because I always watched (former Yankees great) Derek Jeter. He was my idol for life, and for me to play on the field he used to play on is going to be amazing, a special moment for me,'' Adames said. "This is something that I've dreamed about. And for me to accomplish that, it's something big in my life. It means a lot to me.''

Draft breeze

The Rays finalized deals with No. 32 overall pick OF Nick Schnell (Roncalli, Ind., High) and No. 71 competitive balance pick OF/RHP Tanner Dodson (Cal). That puts 10 of their top 12 picks under contract, having until July 6 to negotiate with No. 31 LHP Shane McClanahan (USF) and RHP Miller Hogan (St. Louis University).

Miscellany

• RHP Ryne Stanek is slated, pending bullpen usage, to be the opener Saturday, with LHP Ryan Yarbrough covering the bulk of the innings.

• RHP Sergio Romo's next appearance will be No. 600, the next milestone after reaching the 10-year mark in the majors earlier this week.

• Wednesday's game was the fourth 1-0 walkoff win in franchise history, the first since Ben Zobrist delivered on Sept. 15, 2014.

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