Boston’s top pitching prospect Brayan Bello started on the mound on Wednesday night for his highly-anticipated MLB debut, but the night didn’t have quite the fairytale ending he was hoping for. With the Red Sox eventually falling 7-1 to the Tampa Bay Rays, it’d be easy to write the game off as a failure for the young pitcher, but Bello’s talent shone through, even if it didn’t translate into a win.
The Red Sox and Rays are currently tied for second place in the AL East baseball standings. Both teams hold a 45-37 record for the season, with identical World Series odds of +3000. Despite the close competition, the Red Sox were excited to debut Bello as their starter, calling him up from Triple-A Worcester earlier in the day.
Welcome to Fenway, Brayan Bello. pic.twitter.com/bxVL4TJiNf
— Red Sox (@RedSox) July 6, 2022
Impressing in the Minor Leagues
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Bello signed with the Red Sox on July 2, 2017, for just $28,000. He had already been passed over in the 2015 and 2016 international signing periods and wasn’t seen as a top prospect when he first joined the organization.
Bello’s first pro games were with the Red Sox’s rookie affiliates before moving up to the High-A level in 2019, Double-A in 2021, and Triple-A in 2022. This season, Bello posted a combined 2.33 ERA with 114 strikeouts in 85 innings for Boston’s Double-A and Triple-A affiliates, which was enough to see the pitcher ranked third overall on the Red Sox prospect list, and 46th on MLB.com’s top 100 prospects.
Bello’s fastball has improved drastically over the last few seasons, from topping out at 91-93 mph when he first signed to now regularly hitting the upper 90s. He has developed his changeup as his secondary pitch, which he reportedly learned from three-time All-Star pitcher Fernando Rodney. In addition, the 23-year-old also has an impressive sinker, completing a repertoire of three quality pitches.
Welcome to the Majors
Ahead of his debut in the big leagues, Bello recalled advice he received from his idol, Boston Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. “He just told me it’s the same baseball I’ve been playing from High A to Double-A to Triple-A to the big leagues. Don’t change anything,” Bello told MassLive through a translator. “It’s the same distance from the mound to home plate, same batter, same baseball. Don’t change anything.”
Bello walked out of the dugout on Wednesday night to enthusiastic applause from the home crowd at Fenway Park for his first start in the majors. He lasted four innings on the mound, and while they were far from perfect, the right-hander showed his talent, with his sinker averaging 95 mph and reaching nearly 99 mph at one point.
Allowing four runs, six hits and three walks while striking out two, Bello threw 79 pitches during the outing, 57 of which were changeups or sinkers. Control was clearly Bello’s biggest issue, with 43% of his pitches thrown outside the strike zone.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 6, 2022
While it wasn’t the best pitching debut ever witnessed, I also don’t think that too much blame for the loss can be placed solely on Bello’s performance. Boston has lost all eight series they’ve played against AL East opponents in 2022, and on Wednesday night, the complete lack of offense felt like more of an issue for the team than their pitching. The Red Sox were scoreless until an eighth-inning RBI from J.D. Martinez, and the team only managed a total of six hits in the entire game.
So, did his debut accurately showcase Bello’s potential in the majors? No, but it was only one game — it was never going to definitively reveal him as either a flop or Hall of Famer. His growth and success in the minors prove that the high-level ability is there, so with some seasoning in the big leagues, this rocky start will likely become just a mere blip in an otherwise long and exciting career.
Only time will tell.