Red Sox pitching prospect Thad Ward impressed in his Arizona Fall League debut for the Scottsdale Scorpions on Tuesday afternoon.
Getting the start against the Mesa Solar Sox at Sloan Park, Ward allowed two earned runs on four hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts over 4 2/3 innings of work.
Both runs Ward gave up came on a two-run homer off the bat of Cubs prospect Brennen Davis in the third inning. The 25-year-old right-hander finished with a final pitch count of 70 (46 strikes) and induced nine swings-and-misses.
According to MLB.com’s Jim Callis, Ward hovered around 91-94 mph with his two-seam fastball while also mixing in an 81-85 mph slider and an 87-89 mph changeup.
“The fastball was working well,” Ward told Callis. “I think a lot of it was due to mixing in a lot of sliders in early to try to get them off of that and then beating them with the fastball. My catcher, Andy [Thomas of the Giants], did a really good job of calling pitches and made sure we mixed it up pretty well so we didn’t get predictable. It just worked out that way.”
Originally selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida, Ward is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 15 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks fifth among pitchers in the organization.
The Fort Myers-area native earned Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors in his first full season as a pro in 2019, but has since been limited to 15 starts in the minors due to the COVID-19 pandemic and undergoing Tommy John surgery last June.
Thirteen months after going under the knife, Ward returned to the mound in July. The 6-foot-3, 192-pound hurler made six starts between the Florida Complex League, Low-A Salem, and High-A Greenville before getting back to Double-A Portland in in early August. He posted a 2.43 ERA with 41 strikeouts to 14 walks in seven starts (33 1/3 innings) with the Sea Dogs to close out the 2022 campaign.
“There were glimmers where I thought, ‘OK, now I’m fully back,’ and then there’d be an outing or two where I didn’t feel quite as good,” Ward said of his road back from Tommy John. “So it’s been a little bit of back and forth. It took a little bit to where I finally felt like myself again up on the mound and not having to make some adjustments and I could just compete.”
Ward, who turns 26 in January, can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter if he is not added to Boston’s 40-man roster by November 20. The Red Sox likely sent Ward to Arizona with this in mind so that they could get an extended look at him going up against more advanced competition.
If he remains in the organization through the off-season, Ward could very easily make the jump to Triple-A Worcester for the start of the 2023 season. That would possibly put him in a position to make his major-league debut at some point next summer, though that is far from a guarantee.
(Picture of Thad Ward: Barry Gossage/MLB Photos via Getty Images)