Eovaldi looking to arm Yankees again in 2016

Right-hander working on splitter, curve to get deeper into ballgames

Eovaldi looking to arm Yankees again in 2016

TAMPA, Fla. -- Nathan Eovaldi glanced over toward his new locker neighbor at Yankees camp, Aroldis Chapman, and remarked that it had to be the first time that he'd ever been assigned next to someone who throws harder than he does.

The Yanks' power bullpen is garnering a great deal of attention as pitchers and catchers begin to settle in, but Eovaldi -- no stranger to triple-digit radar gun readings himself -- said that he is looking forward to his second season in the American League after leading the club with 14 victories in 2015.

"You definitely have a tougher lineup because you don't have the pitcher in the lineup batting, but if anything it keeps you more focused and you have to be ready all the time," Eovaldi said.

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"You can't get down to the bottom of the lineup and know you've got the pitcher, and you can attack him or work your offspeed pitches to get them back on point. In the American League, you can't really do that. I enjoyed it."

Eovaldi didn't pitch after Sept. 5 due to right elbow inflammation, though he would have been available out of the bullpen if the Yankees had advanced to the AL Division Series. Eovaldi said he returned home to Texas and did not pick up a ball until Dec. 10, giving him 1 1/2 months of rest.

"I didn't have any problems getting the arm back in shape," Eovaldi said. "In past offseasons, I'd start throwing again and it was like, 'Man, my arm is killing me,' just because I hadn't thrown in forever. This offseason, I felt good and ready to go."

Eovaldi said that he was pleased to see the development of his splitter last season, a pitch which he only started to throw in September 2014, at the urging of Chuck Hernandez, who was his pitching coach with the Marlins. Eovaldi said he has been working on the splitter and curveball more this offseason.

Despite excellent run support (his 7.17 run support average was the second highest in the Majors), Eovaldi ventured deeper than six innings only nine times in 27 starts. Though the trio of Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances offers a good safety net, Eovaldi said that he'd like to pitch deeper on a more regular basis.

"I still want to go as deep as I can in the ballgame," Eovaldi said. "But definitely, [if you] get to that sixth inning, you feel like you have a really good shot at winning the ballgame."

Worth noting
• The Yankees were the only team not to sign a Major League free agent this offseason, but they were close on a deal with right-hander Tommy Hunter, according to the New York Post. Hunter failed his physical and the Yanks backed out of what would have been a two-year deal worth more than $11 million.

Hunter, 29, was 4-2 with a 4.18 ERA in 58 games for the Orioles and Cubs last season, and had two core muscle surgeries this offseason. He agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal with the Indians last week and will not be ready for Opening Day.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch, on Facebook and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.