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Dodgers' Nathan Eovaldi shows he has what it takes in MLB debut

The 21-year-old right-hander strikes out seven, gets a hit and scores a run in five innings of a 5-3 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

August 06, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Nathan Eovaldi makes his big league debut on Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, earning the win with five innings of two-run ball.
Nathan Eovaldi makes his big league debut on Friday night against the Arizona… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)

Reporting from Phoenix -- We learned a few things about 21-year-old Nathan Eovaldi on Saturday.

He prefers to be called "Nathan" instead of "Nate." The "o" in his last name is silent. He has a fluid delivery and his fastball sits in the 93-95 mph range.

And he can get big league hitters out.

Eovaldi won his major league debut, holding the Arizona Diamondbacks to two runs over the first five innings of the Dodgers' 5-3 victory at Chase Field. The right-hander struck out seven, the fourth-most for a debutant in Dodgers history.

"I always wanted to make it here," Eovaldi said.

With Eovaldi on the mound and 23-year-old Dee Gordon at shortstop, the Dodgers got a glimpse of their future — that is, until their lives flashed before their eyes.

Gordon tumbled and jammed his right shoulder after tagging out Kelly Johnson in a third-inning rundown, which required him to exit the game. But there was some positive news out of the Dodgers' clubhouse, as the team's medical staff ruled out a dislocation or separation of Gordon's shoulder.

Gordon, who is listed as day to day, said he felt well enough to remain in the game.

Gordon and Eovaldi are two of six players on the Dodgers' active roster who are 25 or younger. Two others, Rubby De La Rosa and Kenley Jansen, are on the disabled list.

As the first player born in the 1990s to ever play for the Dodgers, Eovaldi is the baby of the group.

So, before calling him up, General Manager Ned Colletti said he had to make sure he had the emotional resilience to deal with failure in case he didn't perform well at this level.

"That's one of the questions I have to have answered in the affirmative," said Colletti, adding that he has talked to Eovaldi's pitching coach at double-A Chattanooga at least 25 times this year.

The belief in the Dodgers' organization is that Eovaldi's makeup is similar to another pitcher who was called up at a young age: Clayton Kershaw.

Eovaldi said he didn't have trouble sleeping Friday night, but acknowledged, "I was wide awake this morning."

If he had any nerves, he knew how to hide them.

"In the bullpen [warming up], I was a little nervous," he said. "But after that, I felt good."

He retired the first five batters he faced, striking out three of them.

Eovaldi walked Ryan Roberts with two outs in the bottom of the second inning, which led to him loading the bases. He gave up a two-run single to pitcher Joe Saunders that put the Dodgers in a 2-1 hole.

Eovaldi tied the game in the next inning, singling to right in his first major league at-bat and scoring on a groundout by Andre Ethier.

With his father and stepmother watching from the stands, Eovaldi retired eight of the last nine batters he faced.

"I think we learned that he's fairly calm," Manager Don Mattingly said. "He attacked. He went after hitters. His stuff's pretty good. His stuff plays."

The Dodgers set up Eovaldi for the win in the sixth inning, taking a 4-2 lead when Ethier scored on a single by Aaron Miles and Juan Rivera scored on a single by Rod Barajas.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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