The Red Sox’ approach to Brayan Bello’s much-anticipated MLB debut that’ll come Wednesday night against the Rays is quite clear: no pressure, kid.
Manager Alex Cora wouldn’t say if he’s told Bello that he’ll be going back to the minors after his spot start but the writing is on the wall, especially with Chris Sale pitching in what could be his final rehab start for Triple-A Worcester on the same day.
BOSTON, MA – August 13: Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Chris Sale in the dugout as the Red Sox take on the Orioles at Fenway on August 13, 2021 in , BOSTON, MA. (Staff Photo By Stuart Cahill/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
Five days from Wednesday, Bello and Sale could swap places.
“I think those conversations, we’ll keep it for us, but I think everybody understands where we’re at and what’s going to happen in the future,” Cora said. “So it’s more about, just go out there and compete, have fun, and then we’ll see what happens in the future.”
It brings back memories of 2007, when Terry Francona made it clear when he first called up Clay Buchholz, the last successful homegrown starting pitcher produced by the Red Sox, that Buchholz was going back to the minors after his debut, even if he threw a no-hitter.
Buchholz didn’t throw a no-hitter in his debut. But when the 23-year-old was called back to make his second MLB start two weeks later, he no-hit the Orioles while striking out nine. Still, he ended up back in the minors the following year.
Bello’s development has looked different. He wasn’t highly-touted out of the Dominican Republic, instead signing for just $28,000 as an 18-year-old.
He posted a 5.34 ERA in his first full minor league season in 2019. But when he came back from the alternate site after the pandemic-shortened season in 2020, Bello looked like a different guy.
His strikeout rate jumped by 40% in 2021 and he started climbing up the prospect rankings.
“It seems like a long way to go from just signing to being on a major league roster,” Bello said through a translator at Fenway Park on Tuesday. “But I just closed my eyes and worked really hard.”
Between three levels in ‘21 and ‘22, Bello posted a 3.14 ERA while striking out a remarkable 246 batters in 180 1/3 innings.
“Everything I hear, stuff-wise, has been outstanding,” Cora said. “It’s not only that, it’s pitchability, everything they have mapped out for him. Use your fastball in this place, work on this pitch, try to do this in this outing. It’s been great.”
Cora said he noticed Bello’s work habits in the offseason while watching his workouts on Instagram. Then he saw how badly Bello wanted to impress during spring training.
“I was like, man this kid, he wants it,” Cora said. “He wants it bad.”
The tricky part will be controlling the hype. It’s been a while since the Sox developed a homegrown starter who stuck. The Sox are hoping it’s Bello.
“I know we get excited about the players, especially in this region,” Cora said. “It seems like they put these kids way up there. Let’s chill tomorrow and let him enjoy it. Whatever happens, happens. This kid is going to be a big part of this organization for a long, long time.”
Bello was in the big league dugout during Tuesday’s game mentally preparing for his start.
“I don’t get too nervous,” he said. “But I’m really happy to get the opportunity to make my MLB debut here at Fenway in front of all the fans. I’ve been working really hard for this moment to be here. I’m excited. I’m just ready to go.”
Nathan Eovaldi (lower back inflammation) and Garrett Whitlock (right hip inflammation) faced hitters in live batting practice for two innings of work on Tuesday as they near a return from the injured list.
“Stuff-wise, it was really good, both of them,” Cora said.
Whitlock is likely to need a few rehab outings before he returns, but Cora is hoping he’s ready to pitch for the Red Sox on the upcoming road trip.
Lefty Josh Taylor (back strain) is struggling in his rehab outings, with a 6.23 ERA and 1.85 WHIP over nine appearances between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Worcester.
Lefty Darwinzon Hernandez (knee surgery) struck out the side on 14 pitches for Worcester on Monday in his first minor league game since May 13.
Matt Barnes (shoulder inflammation) could begin a rehab assignment next week.
Kiké Hernandez (hip flexor strain) is likely to begin a rehab assignment this weekend.
Xander Bogaerts was back in the lineup Tuesday after missing one game while recovering from getting seven stitches in his thigh when he was spiked on a stolen base attempt in Sunday’s game.
Rafael Devers and Alex Verdugo were held out of the lineup for routine days of rest.
Sale will throw five innings at Worcester on Wednesday before the Sox decide if he’s ready to make his season debut in the big leagues next week.
Josh Winckowski will pitch for the Red Sox on Thursday and the club is hopeful Michael Wacha (dead arm) can pitch on Friday. Cora has yet to name a starter for Saturday. …
Lefty Jake Diekman and his wife Amanda have set up a Christmas in July fundraiser that will run through Sunday. There will be tables set up throughout Fenway Park to collect donations for pediatric patients being treated at Boston Children’s Hospital.