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Eovaldi wanted to remain in Red Sox rotation, not relieve

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nathan Eovaldi loved what he started in Boston — emphasis on started.

“There were a lot of teams that reached out, wanted me to be a closer,” he said. “I view myself as a starter, and that’s something I’ve always done my entire career. And I enjoy doing that. So if I had that choice, I still wanted to be a starter.”

After shifting to the bullpen for three World Series relief appearances, including an epic 97-pitch outing in an 18-inning loss , Eovaldi decided last week to stay with the Red Sox for a $68 million, four-year contract .

“I can’t wait to see him again with us. He’s going to be a huge part of this rotation,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said Monday during a winter meetings news conference. “He’s a workaholic.”

Eovaldi averaged nearly 98 mph with his fastball during the regular season but reached 100 mph six times in the first two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers, not needing to hold back. That velocity intrigued teams as he became a free agent.

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Before October, Eovaldi’s career was most notable for a pair of Tommy John surgeries. Acquired from Tampa Bay in July , the 28-year-old right-hander beat the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the Division Series, then defeated Houston in the third game of the League Championship Series and got four outs as a bridge to closer Craig Kimbrel in the Game 5 finale.

Transformed to a setup man, Eovaldi twice pitched perfect eighth innings as Boston took a 2-0 World Series lead against the Dodgers.

He entered Game 3 at the start of the 12th inning, Boston’s ninth pitcher of the game. Ace Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz were the only remaining arms available.

Eovaldi kept going, allowing Yasiel Puig’s tying single in the 13th and Max Muncy’s leading home run in the 18th, which gave the Dodgers a 3-2 win. Eovaldi’s effort became an emotional rallying point for the Red Sox, who won the next two nights for their fourth title in 15 seasons.

“The conversations in between innings, they were cool,” Cora said. “I remember the last one, when I asked him: How are you feeling? He said, ‘Let me finish it.’ He said it with a lot of conviction. I knew he was good.”

Cora also remembered Eovaldi’s arrival at the Dodger Stadium breakfast room the next day.

“He said he was ready for it that night — not that I was going to use him, of course. I’m not that stupid,” Cora said.

Boston’s projected rotation includes Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Eovaldi and Eduardo Rodriguez. Sale and Porcello can become free agents after next season.

“It’s going to be a juggling act over the next several of years,” Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “We know we’re not going to be able to sign everybody, but the more stability that’s out there, the better off we are.”

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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