Red Sox

Brayan Bello shows flashes but labors in MLB debut: 6 takeaways as Red Sox fall to Rays again

Bello showed some flashes but gave up four runs in four innings.

Brayan Bello
Rookie Red Sox starting pitcher Brayan Bello made his major league debut on Wednesday. Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Brayan Bello probably won’t be the next Pedro Martinez. Brayan Bello could be a really good major-league pitcher.

Both of those statements can be true at once. Neither statement was proven right or wrong by Bello’s debut on Wednesday, but neither statement was ever going to be proven right or wrong on Wednesday anyway.


“If it’s three innings and five runs, that doesn’t mean he’s going to fail at this level,” Alex Cora said prior to Wednesday’s game. “Or if he goes seven innings and no runs, it doesn’t man he’s going to be a Hall of Famer.”


The former scenario was closer. Filling a spot start hole in the Red Sox rotation on Wednesday, Bello — the No. 3 prospect in the team’s farm system, and its top pitching prospect — threw four innings as the Red Sox dropped a 7-1 loss to the Rays. Bello allowed six hits, four runs and three walks while striking out two batters — not exactly a line that will inspire fans who compared him to Martinez prior to Wednesday’s game, and not a feel-good story after Chris Sale struggled a bit in his Worcester rehab stint.

Bello was pretty consistent with his offerings — of the 79 pitches Bello threw, 57 were either changeups or sinkers. His sinker hit 97.9 mph at one point and averaged 95 miles per hour. As Red Sox Stats noted on Twitter, his sinker and changeup both have similar movement which makes them both tricky to handle for both batters and for the Fenway pitch trackers, which consistently mislabeled changeups as sinkers.

Bello struggled with his command on changeups, and he drew just six whiffs in total — three on his sinker and two on his changeups.

Still, several encouraging signs were there. The velocity was impressive, and Bello’s changeup issues can be easily explained away by excitement and nerves. While he faltered and allowed three runs in the third inning, he worked his way out of trouble in his last frame in the fourth — coaxing a harmless groundout from Wander Franco.


Where Bello goes from here remains to be seen. The negatives were easy to spot in his debut, but four innings against a tough division opponent were never going to be easy, and when you squint at Bello’s sinker and the potential of his off-speed pitches, you can see why his debut drew so much attention.

Other takeaways

2. Bello made several nice defensive plays. Most impressive: He kickstarted a double play in the first inning, working his way out of trouble by snaring a bouncing ball and firing to second. In his final frame, he charged a dribbling ball in front of the mound, bare-handed it and fired to first — a play that helped him put up a scoreless frame in the fourth despite surrendering a one-out double.

3. Even if Bello had been perfect, the offense gave him almost nothing. The Red Sox managed just six hits total, only three of which came against Rays starter Corey Kluber, and they were scoreless until J.D. Martinez singled in Jarren Duran in the bottom of the eighth inning. Kluber gave up eight hard-hit balls, per Baseball Savant, but the Red Sox’s four hardest hit balls were all lineouts, groundouts or fly outs. The Red Sox have left the third-most runners on base in MLB this season, and the second-most in scoring position — a trend that continued in the second when they stranded runners on second and third.


4. Hirokazu Sawamura’s relief outing didn’t end up affecting the final tally much, but he put together a disastrous sixth inning. After retiring the first two batters quickly, he walked four consecutive batters — coughing up the Rays’ sixth run of the evening.

5. Christian Vazquez gunned down a baserunner trying to steal second for his second game in a row. On a night with few real positives, that will have to count for something.

6. The Red Sox have now lost all eight of their series against American League East opponents so far this season. They are still right in the middle of the playoff race, but unless they start beating some of the talented teams they often face, they won’t inspire much faith in a playoff run that matches last year.

The Red Sox start a four-game series against the Yankees on Thursday.


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