For the first time since being shut down with forearm tightness earlier this month, Red Sox starter Brayan Bello threw off a mound at the Fenway South complex on Sunday.
As part of a 20-pitch bullpen with pitching coach Dave Bush looking on, Bello threw strictly fastballs and changeups. The right-hander told reporters (including MLB.com’s Ian Browne) that he did not feel any discomfort and will feature all of his pitches in his next side session.
“I feel good. I’m pushing myself to be ready for Opening Day,” Bello said through a translator, via The Boston Globe’s Pete Abraham. “In the beginning I was worried because I didn’t know what it was, but I’m fine now.”
After debuting for the Red Sox last July and posting a 4.71 ERA (2.94 FIP) with 55 strikeouts to 27 walks over 13 outings (11 starts, 57 1/3 innings) as a rookie, Bello came into camp this spring with the hopes of competing for a spot in Boston’s Opening Day starting rotation. But the 23-year-old hurler was shut down on February 17 due to experiencing soreness in his right forearm.
Following a brief hiatus, Bello resumed throwing on flat ground last Monday. Shortly thereafter, he told MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith that he was optimistic he would be able to avoid the injured list and would be ready for the start of the 2023 season.
“Of course I’m ready,” Bello said through translator Carlos Villoria Benitez. “The (tightness) that set me back, it wasn’t that much of a time. So for me, I’m ready, hopefully, to be the No. 5 starter in that rotation.”
Although he has graduated from his prospect status, Bello — who turns 24 in May — is still considered to be the top young pitching talent in the Red Sox organization. He is one of seven candidates competing for a spot in Boston’s five-man rotation to begin the year. The other six starters are Chris Sale, Corey Kluber, Nick Pivetta, James Paxton, Garrett Whitlock, and Tanner Houck.
“I feel way better than last year. I feel more prepared,” said Bello. “I know I’m competing with other pitchers for a spot in the starting rotation. For me, that’s my goal. My goal is to try to make the team out of camp as a starter.”
If Bello does not experience any setbacks following Sunday’s bullpen and his next side session, the next step will presumably be for him to face live hitters. The Red Sox, of course, will exercise caution and patience. One would have to assume that the club would need to see how Bello fares in competitive action (i.e. in Grapefruit League Games) before determining if he will indeed be ready for Opening Day or not.
(Picture of Brayan Bello: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)