Jalen Beeks will always be connected to Red Sox postseason hero Nathan Eovaldi, and he's fine with that


BOSTON -- Baseball trades connect players in ways that endure. Mark Langston and Randy Johnson. Jeff Bagwell and Larry Andersen. Curt Schilling and Mike Boddicker. Pedro Martinez and Delino DeShields. 

Jalen Beeks can relate. The up-and-coming Rays left-hander knows his name will always be linked with Nathan Eovaldi after the swap that brought the eventual World Series hero to Boston last July.

"Every time I hear his name, I think we're always going to have that connection, that weird connection," Beeks said before Friday's rainout. "We might never talk to each other, but we're always going to have that connection. I hope he does great, and I hope I'm able to help this team as much as he helped the Red Sox in the World Series."

Parting with Beeks was not an easy decision, especially since he had a number of advocates in player development. But even with Eovaldi recovering from elbow surgery that could keep him out until June, it's hard to quibble, not after Eovaldi posted a 1.61 ERA last October while delivering the signature performance of the postseason -- a six-inning relief stint in a marathon World Series Game 2 loss to the Dodgers.

"I've never actually talked to him, but I've heard nothing but good things from former teammates," Beeks said. "Obviously, I was rooting for the Red Sox, not just because I was a part of it. I had a bunch of friends on that team that I wanted to see win the World Series. It was really fun to watch them, how hard they played and how well they played, how good a series it was. It was fun to watch. I was nothing but happy for the guy."

Beeks, 25, is transforming into a legitimate loss for the Red Sox, though. A 12th-rounder in 2014 out of Arkansas, where he played alongside Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, he appears to be a pitcher with a legitimate chance of reaching his ceiling.

He has developed into a power lefty with a 95-mph fastball out of Tampa's pen. He's 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA and has struck out 20 in 19 innings. He's coming off his best outing of the season -- 4.2 innings of shutout relief vs. the Royals with seven strikeouts.

"It's pretty crazy how things have turned out," Beeks said. "I'm still fighting every day to stay here. What they say is true -- the only thing harder thing than getting to the big leagues is staying here."

Beeks might have never landed on anyone's radar, except for a moment of serendipity in March of 2017. The Red Sox were set to play a spring training exhibition against Team USA before the World Baseball Classic. 

Beeks arrived at JetBlue Park expecting to pitch in relief, but when Red Sox scheduled starter Roenis Elias pulled an oblique 15 minutes before first pitch, the anonymous Beeks found himself thrust into action vs. a lineup of legitimate big league stars.

The stage did not overwhelm him as he faced a U.S. team composed of several All-Stars. He struck out future NL MVP Christian Yelich and Orioles All-Star outfielder Adam Jones leading off the game, and ended up going two scoreless innings, retiring Daniel Murphy, Giancarlo Stanton, and Jonathan Lucroy along the way.

"That game kind of put my name on the map a little bit, because I wasn't much of a prospect before," Beeks admitted. "Not a whole lot of people knew who I was, even if they read Baseball America. I just went out there like, 'Here's what I've got, guys. If you hit it, you hit it.' I'd been working to face big leaguers, and that was Team USA. There were plenty of them on that team. It's still crazy looking back on it. I might never get the opportunity to face a team like that again."

He shouldn't sell himself short. Only a few months after the Red Sox turned him into a postseason hero, he has a chance to carve out a legitimate career for himself. And who knows -- maybe one day Eovaldi will be remembered as the guy traded for Beeks.

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