While the Red Sox suffered their first loss in well over a week at Fenway Park on Friday night, one of the top pitching prospects in the organization put together an impressive performance on the mound approximately 42 miles away.
Yes, Josh Winckowski was solid in his debut for Triple-A Worcester at Polar Park on Friday, allowing two runs (both earned) on three hits, zero walks, and one hit batsman to go along with six strikeouts over six strong innings of work.
Matched up against the Rochester Red Wings (Nationals affiliate), the right-hander took a perfect game into the fourth inning, as he retired each of the first nine batters he faced before plunking leadoff man Victor Robles.
Even after that mishap, Winckowski proceeded to take his no-hit bid into the top of the sixth before yielding a one-out single to Humberto Arteaga.
As he got an ovation from the 8,971 on hand at Polar Park, Winckowski got the second out rather easily, but showed signs of fatigue when he surrendered back-to-back run-scoring doubles to Daniel Palka and Jake Noll that allowed the Red Wings to jump out to a 2-0 lead.
Before letting things get too out of hand, though, Winckowski got the last hitter he faced — Mike Ford — to fly out to center field to end his night on a somewhat more positive note.
Finishing with a final pitch count of 92 (61 strikes), Winckowski was hit with the loss in his first Triple-A start since the Red Wings fell to the WooSox by a final score of 3-0, but he was still undoubtedly one of the stars of the contest.
“Not quite the ending you would want, but overall decent night,” Winckowski told MassLive.com’s Katie Morrison. “Sometimes it’s hard, there are so many boards everywhere. It was probably around the fourth when I noticed it, even though I didn’t want to, sometimes it’s hard to avoid.”
Winckowski, 23, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 16 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking ninth among pitchers in the organization.
The Red Sox originally acquired the 23-year-old hurler from the Mets as part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals back in February. He received an invite to big-league camp earlier this spring and later opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland.
In 21 outings (20 starts) with Portland, Winckowski posted a 4.14 ERA and 4.38 xFIP to go along with 88 strikeouts to 30 walks over exactly 100 innings of work en route to being named the Sea Dogs’ Pitcher of the Year for his efforts.
A former 15th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays in 2016, Winckowski is listed at an imposing 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds. Per his Baseball America scouting report, the Ohio native (who now resides in Fort Myers) operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of “a major league-quality fastball (usually 94-96 mph), a slider, and a changeup that has the potential to emerge as a solid third pitch.”
In making his first start at the Triple-A level on Friday, Winckowski became the third Red Sox prospect to make their debuts for Worcester this week alone, joining the likes of first baseman Triston Casas and catcher Ronaldo Hernandez. All three players received promotions on Monday.
The timing of Winckowski’s promotion certainly comes at an interesting time since he can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the second time in his professional career this winter.
He was left unprotected and went unselected while with the Blue Jays in last year’s Rule 5 Draft, but that seems unlikely to happen this time around given the sort of productive season he has had.
With that being said, the Red Sox will have until November 20 to add the young righty — who does not turn 24 until next June — to their 40-man roster if they do indeed plan on protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft.
In the meantime, though, Winckowski should be able to make one last start for the WooSox before the final stretch of their season comes to an end a week from Sunday (October 3).
(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/MLB Photos via Getty Images)