Red Sox pitching prospect Grant Gambrell shined in his debut for Double-A Portland on Thursday night.
Though the Sea Dogs fell to the Hartford Yard Goats by a final score of 4-3 in 12 innings, Gambrell was on point on a cool evening at Dunkin’ Park. The right-hander allowed just one earned run on two hits and zero walks to go along with eight strikeouts over six strong innings of work.
Gambrell retired the first 15 batters he faced and took a bid for a perfect game into the sixth inning before giving up a first-pitch leadoff home run to Drew Romo. He also surrendered a one-out triple to Bret Boswell, but he prevented a second run from crossing the plate by getting Bladimir Restituyo to ground out and striking out top Rockies prospect Zac Veen.
All told, Gambrell needed just 64 pitches (47 strikes) to get through six efficient frames. He induced 10 swings-and-misses and did not factor into the decision after Niko Kavadas hit a then-game-tying home run with one out in the top of the ninth.
With Shane Drohan making the jump and debuting for Triple-A Worcester on Thursday, the Red Sox needed someone to take the left-hander’s place in Portland’s starting rotation. They achieved that by officially promoting Gambrell from High-A Greenville hours before his Sea Dogs debut.
After missing the entirety of the 2022 season with a significant ankle injury, Gambrell broke camp with Greenville earlier this spring. The 25-year-old hurler did not get off to the best of starts, posting a 6.87 ERA and 6.61 FIP with 21 strikeouts to nine walks in four April outings spanning 18 1/3 innings.
Once the calendar flipped from April to May, though, Gambrell appeared to have flipped a switch. After yielding two unearned runs and striking out eight over six innings on May 6, the righty gave up three runs and struck out seven over a season-high seven innings last Saturday.
With back-to-back impressive showings, Gambrell became a logical candidate for a promotion. As noted by SoxProspects.com’s Chris Hatfield, the Drive already have a crowded starting rotation and have more reinforcements coming in Hayden Mullins, Bradley Blalock, and Jeremy Wu-Yelland, who are all currently on the injured list.
Boston originally acquired Gambrell and fellow righty Luis De La Rosa from the Royals in June 2021 to complete one part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City four months prior. Coming into the 2023 campaign, Gambrell had appeared in just eight games as a member of the Red Sox organization.
A former third-round draft selection of the Royals out of Oregon State in 2019, Gambrell stands at a burly 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. The California native throws from a three-quarters arm slot and operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 92-95 mph four-seam fastball, a 79-81 mph breaking ball, and an 83-86 mph curveball, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.
Gambrell, who does not turn 26 until November, figures to spend the rest of the season with Portland. There could be some challenges as he adjusts to more advanced competition at a new level, but he certainly got off to an encouraging start on Thursday.
(Picture of Grant Gambrell: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)