Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata officially began his rehab assignment with Low-A Salem on Saturday night.
Pitching in front of 3,971 spectators at Carillion Clinic Field, the right-hander allowed one unearned run on no hits, two walks, and two strikeouts over two innings of work in Salem’s 6-2 win over the Columbia Fireflies.
Of the 45 pitches Mata threw on Saturday, 27 went for strikes and nine were of the swing-and-miss variety. The 23-year-old reportedly topped out at 98 mph with his fastball.
Not including extended spring training, this marked Mata’s first in-game action since August 2019 and, more significantly, his first official minor-league appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April.
Originally signed by the Red Sox for just $25,000 as an international free agent coming out of Venezuela in January 2016, Mata is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 11 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks fifth among pitchers in the organization.
When healthy, many believed Mata had some of the best pure stuff in the system as he complemented his high-octane fastball with a changeup, a curveball, and a slider, among other offerings.
After tearing his ulnar collateral ligament and having his elbow reconstructed last spring, it remains to be seen if Mata will remain effective as a starter or will instead transition to a relief role at the next level. Either way, he still has a high ceiling.
Already a member of Boston’s 40-man roster, Mata will make his next start for High-A Greenville, per The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. He is expected to reach Triple-A Worcester by the time his rehab assignment comes to an end. At that point, the 6-foot-3, 229 pound hurler could be paired up with fellow righty Brayan Bello in the WooSox’ starting rotation.
Bello, the top pitching prospect in the Sox’ farm system, made his fourth start for Worcester since being promoted from Double-A Portland on May 17. The 23-year-old yielded three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out eight over five innings on Friday. His ERA with the WooSox now sits at 3.63.
Between Bello and Mata, the Red Sox have two extremely exciting young pitchers who have the chance to make their big-league debuts at some point this season. At the same time, Chaim Bloom and Co. will surely exhibit patience when it comes to the development of these two prospects as well those who fall behind them in the pipeline.
(Picture of Bryan Mata courtesy of the Salem Red Sox)