Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata has been placed on Triple-A Worcester’s 7-day injured list with right shoulder inflammation, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.
Mata exited his start against the Rochester Red Wings early on Tuesday. The right-hander appeared to be in visible discomfort after delivering a 1-0, 86.2 mph fastball to Franklin Barreto with one out and one runner on in the bottom of the third inning at Innovative Field.
After WooSox catcher Jorge Alfaro motioned to the visitor’s dugout, a conference on the mound ensued. Mata then left the field with a trainer and was replaced by Jake Faria, who allowed both runners he inherited to score in what would go down as a 7-3 loss to the Red Wings.
Up until that point in the contest, Mata had yielded six runs (four earned) on six hits and three walks to go along with five strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings of work. The 24-year-old finished with 49 pitches (29 strikes). He topped out at 99.1 mph with his slider, an offering that accounted for four of the five swings-and-misses he induced.
Following Tuesday’s injury-shortened outing, Mata now owns an 0-3 record and 5.61 FIP with 27 walks to 26 strikeouts in seven starts (25 2/3 innings) for the WooSox so far this season. Despite those unimpressive numbers, the native Venezuelan is still regarded by publications such as Baseball America as the top pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system.
Originally signed as an international free agent coming out of Maracay for just $25,000 in January 2016, Mata was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in November 2020 to receive protection from Rule 5 Draft eligibility. He tore the UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) in his right elbow the following March and underwent Tommy John surgery shortly thereafter.
After missing all of the 2021 season, Mata returned to action last June as part of a rehab assignment with Low-A Salem. He made one start for Salem, three starts for High-A Greenville, and nine starts (10 total appearances) for Double-A Portland before earning a promotion to Worcester in late August.
Since then, Mata has forged a 4.59 ERA with 52 strikeouts to 46 walks in 12 starts (49 innings) with the WooSox. Alongside the likes of lefties Brandon Walter and Chris Murphy, who are also on the 40-man roster, Mata represents legitimate big-league pitching depth for the Red Sox at the club’s top affiliate.
With that being said, though, Mata has just one minor-league option remaining, meaning this is the final year the Red Sox can freely shuttle the righty between Boston and Worcester without having to first expose him to waivers.
Even before this latest setback, there were signs that Mata could transition to a bullpen role in the near future since he has power stuff but has had difficulty in harnessing it effectively. Depending on how long he is out for (the hope is the issue isn’t too serious), that scenario could become a reality if the Red Sox want to get a look at Mata at the major-league level before season’s end.
(Picture of Bryan Mata: Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)