Nationals targeting left-handed reliever J.P. Howell

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After watching Sean Burnett, Mike Gonzalez and Tom Gorzelanny all sign elsewhere this offseason, the Nationals are in the market for a left-handed reliever. The pickings are starting to thin out, but Dan Kolko of MASNSports.com reports that J.P. Howell remains the club’s top choice in free agency.

Howell, who turns 30 in April, posted a 3.04 ERA and 42/22 K/BB ratio over 50 1/3 innings this past season with the Rays. He has held left-handed batters to a .241/.323/.351 batting line and a .675 OPS during his career. Considering what some of the other left-handed relievers have received this offseason, it wouldn’t be surprising if he lands a multi-year contract.

As of now, Zach Duke is the only left-handed reliever on the Nationals’ 40-man roster. Bill Bray signed a minor league deal with the club earlier this offseason, but he was limited to just 14 relief appearances with the Reds this past season due to back and groin injuries.

Nathan Eovaldi likely to be activated this weekend

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Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi is likely to be activated from the 10-day injured list this weekend and will join the bullpen, per Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston.

Eovaldi, 29, had a superb postseason showing with the Red Sox last year, including a six-inning relief appearance in Game 3 of the World Series. That propelled him to ink a four-year, $68 million contract with the Red Sox in December.

Eovaldi underwent athroscopic surgery in April to remove loose bodies in his elbow and has been out ever since. He had allowed 14 earned runs on 21 hits and 11 walks with 16 strikeouts in 21 innings prior to going on the IL.

The Red Sox bullpen has been middling at best this season, owning a composite 4.55 ERA. Six different relievers have accrued saves, none more than Ryan Brasier‘s seven and he was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket earlier this week. It’s quite possible Eovaldi finds himself closing out games down the stretch.