Tomase: Exciting prospect Brayan Bello can make an impact in Boston originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
There are several outcomes between Jonathan Papelbon and Abe Alvarez, and where Brayan Bello falls on that spectrum could influence the fate of the Red Sox in 2022.
Of course you still remember Papelbon. Arriving in July 2005 as a spot starter, he quickly transitioned to the bullpen, where he became an essential weapon in securing the wildcard. A year later, he was an All-Star closer who would soon make Riverdance its way into our hearts.
Alvarez you probably need a refresh. He entered the 2004 season as Boston’s top pitcher, one spot ahead of a young southpaw named Jon Lester. The Long Beach State lefty only threw about 145 mph and was blind in one eye, but he had a sophisticated sense of pitching, or so the story went.
The Red Sox called him up in July 2004 to start the opener of a doubleheader vs. the Orioles. It took exactly four batters for All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada to dent the Coke bottles in left field and that was pretty much the end of it. Alvarez played in only three games over the next two years and retired with an 11.32 ERA.
Bello (pronounced BAY-oh) will chart his own course against the Rays starting Wednesday. With the starting staff suddenly ravaged with injuries, the Red Sox are probably calling Bello a little earlier than they’d like, but not by much. He opened the season as Boston’s No. 5 prospect and… has risen to Baseball America’s top 50 with a great campaign.
Bello is the rare Red Sox arm who arrives without being a household name for long. We knew Lester from the day he was called up in 2002. Papelbon raced through the system. Clay Buchholz was Baseball America’s number 4 overall prospect.
By comparison, Bello owes its place at the top of the prospect rankings in part to the Tommy John operation, which defeated the highly regarded Bryan Mata and Thaddeus Ward last spring, when Bello was also behind Tanner Houck and Jay Groome.
He has largely flown under the radar since he pulled out of the Dominican Republic for just $28,000 in 2017, when he weighed about 130 pounds. He didn’t land on the average fan’s radar until he dominated his first six starts in Double-A Portland this spring, going 4-2 with a 1.60 ERA and then continuing his advance in Triple-A Worcester, striking out 72 batters. in 51.1 innings.
Now here he is as part of a youth squad supporting the rotation with injuries to Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Whitlock, Rich Hill and now Michael Wacha. That’s the fourth-fifth of the rotation, but they’ve effectively been replaced by Josh Winckowski, Kutter Crawford and to a lesser extent Connor Seabold, with Bello’s turn on Wednesday.
How Chris Sale fared in the most recent start of rehab for Portland
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, 23-year-old Bello has a fastball that regularly hits 100 mph and lives in the upper 90s. He combines it with a change he learned from former All-Star closer Fernando Rodney, per MassLive, as well as a slider. He has worked with Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez at the team’s Dominican academy and has averaged more than 12 strikeouts per nine innings since 2021.
There is a chance for Bello to make more than one start. While veteran Chris Sale is also pitching in Worcester on Wednesday and is due to return soon, Eovaldi still hasn’t started a rehabilitation assignment, Whitlock has already been told he’s going back to the bullpen, Hill is on the injured list with a knee sprain and Wacha could easily be knocked out with a dead arm.
That means Bello can get a longer look out of necessity. Papelbon seized that opportunity more than 15 years ago and has never looked back. We’ll see if Bello does the same.