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Pirates

Pirates talk with Yankees about trading for RHP Eovaldi

| Saturday, July 16, 2016, 10:03 a.m.
Yankees starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi throws during the ninth inning July 10, 2016, against the Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
USA Today Sports
Yankees starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi throws during the ninth inning July 10, 2016, against the Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
Yankees pitcher Nathan Eovaldi delivers during the first inning against the Padres on Friday, July 1, 2016, at PETCO Park in San Diego.
Getty Images
Yankees pitcher Nathan Eovaldi delivers during the first inning against the Padres on Friday, July 1, 2016, at PETCO Park in San Diego.

WASHINGTON — As they look to recast their pitching staff for the second half of the season, the Pirates have talked with the New York Yankees about a possible trade for right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, a source told the Tribune-Review on Saturday.

The Pirates could slot Eovaldi in the middle of their rotation, an experienced arm to help smooth the way and manage the workloads of promising youngsters such as Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon. Eovaldi also could develop into a back-end reliever this year or next.

The Texas Rangers reportedly also are interested in Eovaldi, 26, who is 7-6 with a 5.11 ERA in 19 outings (16 starts) this year.

After allowing six runs in 41⁄3 innings July 1 against the San Diego Padres, Eovaldi was moved to the bullpen.

On Friday, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Eovaldi will go back into the rotation Tuesday. Last season, Eovaldi put together a string of solid outings in the second half, posting a 3.67 ERA in nine starts.

Although his fastball averages 97 mph and can reach triple digits, Eovaldi is not much of a strikeout pitcher (7.39 K/9).

Eovaldi has been stung by a home run-to-fly ball rate of 13.8 percent, the worst of his career.

There is some upside: Eovaldi's walk rate (7.6 percent) is down and his strikeout rate (19.2 percent) is up slightly. Things have been ugly, though, when batters make contact — 10.7 percent of all plate appearances against him this year have resulted in extra-base hits.

The challenges for Pirates pitching guru Ray Searage would be to get Eovaldi to work down in the zone more consistently and to nudge up his ground-ball rate (50.7 percent this season, 52.2 percent last year).

Eovaldi is making $5.6 million this year and has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining. He has played six seasons in the majors with the Yankees, Miami Marlins and Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Pirates were interested in Eovaldi when the Marlins made him available after the 2014 season. The Yankees acquired him that winter as part of a five-player trade that included Martin Prado and former Pirates first baseman Garrett Jones.

The Yankees are looking to get younger and shed some payroll. To get Eovoldi, the Pirates might have to give up an up-and-comer such as Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams or Steven Brault.

Kuhl will start Sunday against the Washington Nationals. Brault, who made one start for the Pirates earlier this month and Williams are in the rotation at Triple-A Indianapolis.

On Friday, the Pirates moved left-hander Jon Niese into the bullpen. They also are actively trying to trade Niese.

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times tweeted that the Pirates had a “high-level” scout at the Rays game Friday to evaluate pitcher Chris Archer.

Glasnow, who was sent back to Indy before the All-Star break, is expected to rejoin the rotation at some point this season. Taillon (shoulder fatigue) is on track to come off the disabled list sometime this week.

Veteran left-handers Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano have struggled at times this season. Locke leads the staff with eight wins, but his 5.26 ERA is the highest in the rotation. Liriano has one victory since late May.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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