Rangers Big Game Nate gets big game start for Opening Day


SURPRISE, Arizona — He’s earned the nickname “Big Game Nate” for times such as these. When the World Series Champion Texas Rangers open the new baseball season in front of a celebratory home crowd next week, it will qualify as a big event.

Nathan Eovaldi Nathan Eovaldi speaks to the media in Surprise, Arizona.

Bill Jones/CBS News Texas

So, the worst kept secret in Surprise was announced Tuesday as Nathan Eovaldi will be the Rangers’ Opening Day starting pitcher against the Chicago Cubs one week from Thursday.

It will be the fourth Opening Day start for Eovaldi, the other three coming for Boston in 2020-22. And, he will become the second pitcher from Alvin, Texas to start the opener for Texas. Nolan Ryan was the Rangers Opening Day starter for three straight years (1990-92).

Eovaldi has been sharp this spring, beginning with his first bullpen session when Manager Bruce Bochy made the comment, “Okay, he’s ready. Now put him on ice.” Eovaldi is coming off a 12-7 season, but he also went 5-0 in the postseason with a 2.93 ERA.

Meanwhile, lost in all the Wyatt Langford talk this spring has been the work of another recent first round draft pick, Justin Foscue, who has a similar resume as Langford. Foscue is an SEC product (Mississippi State) just like Langford (Florida), taken 14th in the 2020 draft, 10 picks later than Langford’s fourth overall selection last summer.

As a second baseman, Foscue is blocked from the big leagues by Ironman Marcus Semien, but he is showing some versatility this spring and is now hitting .275 after going 2-for-3 Tuesday against the Athletics, including an 8th inning game-tying two-run double.

Veteran reliever Kirby Yates, a key offseason acquisition, coughed up a three-run homer to Brent Rooker in the 7-7 tie that drops the Rangers record to 10-12-3.

Dane Dunning will be on the mound for the Rangers against the Reds in Goodyear on Wednesday. The team has a day off on Thursday, then host the Guardians in Surprise on Friday at 3 p.m. on TXA 21. The final Cactus League game is Saturday, which will be Eovaldi’s final tuneup before Opening Day.