Red Sox pitching prospect Josh Winckowski went just two innings in his fifth start of the season for Triple-A Worcester on Wednesday afternoon.
Taking on the Rochester Red Wings at Polar Park, the right-hander allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out a pair over two scoreless innings of work. 19 of the 32 pitches he went for strikes.
Given his rather low pitch count, it was somewhat surprising to see Taylor Cole take the mound in the third inning as opposed to Winckowski. However, several members of the media — including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo — that the plan all along was for Winckowski to pitch just two innings.
Shortly after the WooSox fell to the Red Wings by a final score of 3-2, manager Chad Tracy told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Katie Morrison) that Winckowski’s outing was shorter than usual just in case the Red Sox need to call up a pitcher in the coming days.
“Just potential stuff that could happen up top that they don’t know yet,” explained Tracy. “So we wanted to make sure between [Connor] Seabold, who threw yesterday, and Winc that there’s options available. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t know what’ll happen, but those things happen sometimes. And we’ll see where all that falls.”
Winckowski, who is on Boston’s 40-man roster, has now posted a 2.75 ERA and .181/.234/.264 slash line against to go along with 19 strikeouts to five walks over 19 2/3 innings of work for Worcester this season.
The 23-year-old is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 9 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks third among pitchers in the organization. The Red Sox, of course, acquired Winckowski from the Mets as part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals last February.
While Winckowski, a former 15th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays, has mostly been used as a starter throughout his professional career, the Florida-born righty does have past experience as a reliever. In the Arizona Fall League last year, for instance, he made six relief appearances for the Scottsdale Scorpions.
Pitching in shorter bursts allows Winckowski to add more velocity to his fastball that typically sits at 94-96 mph, and he put that on fill display on Wednesday.
“I tried to keep it the same,” Winckowski said when going over his performance. “I kind of came out a little bit hotter than normal, I guess you could say, obviously when you only have two it’s a little bit shorter, but relatively, it was all the same for me.”
The Red Sox, at present, have two starters and one reliever on the 10- and 15-day injured lists in Rich Hill (COVID-19), Michael Wacha (left intercostal irritation), and Josh Taylor (low back strain).
Following their series finale against the Braves in Atlanta on Wednesday night, the Sox will head to Texas for a three-game series with the Rangers that begins on Friday.
Per The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham, Nick Pivetta will get the start for Friday’s series opener. The hope is that Hill will start on Saturday or Sunday and whichever one he does not start will be a bullpen game that could fall to Seabold or Wincowski.
Wacha, on the other hand, is out until May 20 at the earliest since his stint on the injured list was backdated to May 5. Garrett Whitlock will make his next start against the Astros back in Boston on Monday so he is not available.
With that, Alex Cora and Co. will likely shake up their pitching staff this weekend since Hill will either be activated or Seabold/Winckowski will be recalled from Worcester.
Because of this, corresponding moves will need to be made in the not so distant future. Kutter Crawford, for instance, has not pitched since last Thursday and is a candidate to be optioned to Worcester. Hirokazu Sawamura is another reliever who has minor-league options, so there is some flexibility there.
All that being said, Seabold and Winckowski represent internal options for the Red Sox when they find themselves in need of reinforcements on Saturday and/or Sunday.
Seabold made his big-league debut against the White Sox last September. Winckowski would be getting called up for the first time if it were to happen.
(Picture of Josh Winckowski: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)