Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward undergoes Tommy John surgery

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward underwent Tommy John surgery on Thursday, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews in Florida.

Ward, 24, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks fourth among pitchers in the organization.

The right-hander opened the 2021 minor-league season with Double-A Portland, where he allowed five runs on 11 hits, five walks, and 11 strikeouts over his first two starts and eight innings pitched prior to being placed on the injured list due to a forearm strain.

Per MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo, Ward “visited multiple doctors in recent weeks before surgery was recommended.”

Selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida, Ward emerged as one of the organization’s top pitching prospects thanks in part to posting a 2.14 ERA over 25 starts (126 1/3 innings) between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem during his first full professional season in 2019.

While he did not pitch in 2020 on account of the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the minor-league season, the Florida native did receive an invite to big-league spring training this year before getting reassigned to minor-league camp in early March.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 193 pounds, Ward — who works with a sinker, cutter, slider, changeup, and curveball — will miss the rest of the 2021 campaign and likely the majority of 2022 as well considering the typical timetable for pitchers to come back from Tommy John surgery is anywhere between 12-15 months.

Ward undergoing Tommy John is the latest instance of the Red Sox’ minor-league pitching depth taking a major hit so far this year.

Bryan Mata, the top pitching prospect in the system, underwent Tommy John surgery in April. Tanner Houck, the No. 3 pitching prospect in the system, has been on the injured list with a flexor muscle strain.

Connor Seabold, the No. 5 pitching prospect in the system, has been on the injured list with elbow inflammation. Eduard Bazardo, the 27th-ranked prospect in the system according to MLB Pipeline, has been on the injured list with a lat strain.

For the Red Sox, the silver lining with Ward is that they likely won’t need to add the young righty to their 40-man roster in November even though he will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time this winter.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox prospect Eduard Bazardo dealing with right lat strain; Boston is ‘still working to determine the severity of the injury,’ per report

After being removed from his outing with Triple-A Worcester on Tuesday night, Red Sox pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo has been diagnosed with a right lat (latissimus dorsi) strain, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Bazardo was deployed for the ninth inning of the WooSox’ eventual 9-4 win over the Buffalo Bisons at Polar Park. But he had to come out after throwing just five pitches (two strikes) to Dilson Herrera.

On his fifth and final pitch — a fastball to the backstop — the right-hander could be seen grabbing his elbow before calling for Worcester’s training staff to come out from the dugout.

The reason Bazardo was pulled from Tuesday’s contest was initially labeled as “an apparent arm injury,” but– as previously mentioned — has since been ruled a right lat strain.

Per Speier, “the Red Sox [are] still working to determine the severity of the injury.”

Bazardo, 25, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the No. 27 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 12th among pitchers in the organization.

Added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last November after a strong showing in fall instructs, the Venezuelan hurler has made two major-league relief appearances in two separate stints with the club so far this season.

In those two outings (the first of which came on April 14, the second of which came on May 12), Bazardo tossed three scoreless innings while yielding just one hit and two walks to go along with three strikeouts.

Primarily working with a two-pitch mix that consists of a slider and four-seam fastball combination, the 6-foot, 190 pound righty also owns an ERA of 13.50 in four appearances (2 2/3 innings pitched) with the WooSox in 2021.

As noted by Speier, Bazardo is one of three Worcester relievers currently on Boston’s 40-man roster alongside right-handers Brandon Brennan and Colten Brewer.

Because of their ability to shuttle him between Triple-A and the majors with ease — as they have already done twice this year — the Red Sox clearly view Bazardo as a valuable bullpen depth option at the minor-league level.

(Picture of Eduard Bazardo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox prospect Kutter Crawford tosses four scoreless innings for Double-A Portland in first start back from Tommy John surgery

On Saturday, Red Sox pitching prospect Kutter Crawford made his first start of the minor-league season for Double-A Portland.

Not only was it Crawford’s first start since August 24, 2019 with the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but it was also his first start since undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2019.

Matched up against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the Double-A affiliate of the Blue Jays, at Hadlock Field over the weekend, the right-hander turned in a solid outing in his 2021 debut.

Over four innings of work, Crawford kept the Fisher Cats off the scoreboard while scattering just three hits and no walks to go along with five strikeouts on the afternoon. He retired 12 of the 15 hitters he faced in the process of throwing 54 pitches, 40 of which were strikes.

Crawford, who turned 25 last month, was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 16th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University, the same school Chris Sale attended.

Signing with Boston for $125,000, the Florida native rose through the ranks and came into the 2019 season ranked as the Sox’ No. 22 prospect according to Baseball America.

Crawford opened the 2019 campaign with High-A Salem and posted a 3.39 ERA and a 77:30 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 14 starts and 69 innings of work to earn Carolina League All-Star honors.

Promoted to Portland on June 20, Crawford provided six quality innings in two of his first three Double-A starts. But after lasting just 2 2/3 innings in his fourth start on July 12, he was placed on the injured list.

From that point forward, Crawford would be sidelined for a month before making one start in his return from the IL in August before once again getting shelved for the remainder of the season.

As he explained to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith in February, Crawford had been experiencing elbow issues throughout the 2018 and 2019 seasons. He was able to pitch through it for a quite a while, but the discomfort got to a point in 2019 where he couldn’t throw every five days.

That led to an MRI on the hurler’s right elbow, which revealed a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament that would require Tommy John surgery.

Crawford had the procedure done by Dr. James Andrews on October 29. About nine months later, he began experiencing elbow pain again while getting back into his throwing program and would have to have bone spurs removed from his right elbow as a result.

Since then, Crawford has obviously been able to get back on track to the point where he was ready for the start of the minor-league season. His pitch arsenal still consists of a fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.

“One of my main focuses with the rehab throwing was to shorten my arm action a little bit,” Crawford told Smith. “I had this little hitch in 2019. I don’t really know how it developed. I didn’t have it in college. But I started having this little hitch. And that was really one of my main focuses: getting rid of that hitch and also trying to shorten my arm path just to make it more efficient so it can work a little bit easier.” 

With that new arm action in tow, Crawford will look to re-establish himself as a legitimate pitching prospect that caught people’s attention in 2018 and 2019.

The 6-foot-1, 192 pound hurler out of Okeechobee, Fla. can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this December. The Red Sox would need to add him to their 40-man roster by November 20 in order to prevent that from happening.

(Picture of Kutter Crawford: Jill Brady/Portland Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Red Sox shut down right-hander Tanner Houck due to sore flexor muscle

The Red Sox have shut down right-hander Tanner Houck due to a sore flexor muscle, manager Alex Cora announced Sunday morning.

Per Cora, Houck first felt discomfort during his last start for Triple-A Worcester, which was also the WooSox’ first game of the season in Trenton on May 4.

Houck lasted just three innings in his first start for Worcester this past Tuesday, allowing three runs on eight hits, no walks, and four strikeouts on 69 pitches (45 strikes).

The 24-year-old came in the following day experiencing soreness in his flexor muscle, which resulted in him being shut down.

“We’re not overly concerned,” Cora said. “This happened in his last start. The next day, he came in sore. He’s actually feeling better right now. But of course, we’re going to shut him down.”

Houck, who turns 25 next month, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 3 pitching prospect in Boston’s farm system.

The former first-round draft pick made his major-league debut for the Sox last September and has posted a 1.98 ERA over six outings (five starts) since then.

This year alone, Houck has allowed seven runs (five earned) on 14 hits, one walk, and 12 strikeouts in three appearances (two starts) spanning 10 1/3 total innings of work.

While the Red Sox do not seem too concerned about Houck’s status moving forward, the fact that he has been shut down now means that the club is without their top two rotation depth options at the minor-league level for the time being.

That being the case because in addition to Houck being shut down, fellow right-handed pitching prospect Connor Seabold was placed on the injured list last Monday with right elbow inflammation.

The Sox did not seem too worried that Seabold would miss a significant amount of time, either, but his absence becomes more significant since Houck has been sidelined as well.

On top of those two, Bryan Mata, the organization’s top pitching prospect, underwent Tommy John surgery last month. So it goes without saying that Boston’s starting rotation depth has taken somewhat of a hit these past few weeks.

Still, as previously mentioned, the Red Sox seem optimistic that in Houck’s case, the righty will not be shut down for long.

“There’s no timetable, but this is something that we feel is going to be short-term,” said Cora. “It’s not something that we are overly concerned, but that’s where we’re at right now.”

(Picture of Tanner Houck: Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Thaddeus Ward, top Red Sox pitching prospect, set to make Double-A debut Friday

For the first time since August 27, 2019, Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward will toe the rubber in a minor-league game on Friday.

Ward, 24, will be making his first start of the season for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs as they go up against the New Hampshire Fisher Cats — the Double-A affiliate of the Blue Jays — at Hadlock Field.

The young right-hander is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking fourth among pitchers behind only Bryan Mata, Jay Groome, and Tanner Houck.

The Red Sox selected Ward, a native of Fort Myers, in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida.

Since then, Ward has been solid at every level he has pitched at, most recently posting a 2.33 ERA, a .203 batting average against, and a 70:32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 12 starts and 54 innings pitched with High-A Salem in 2019 after earning a promotion from Low-A Greenville in June of that year.

With no minor-league season in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Ward was left to work out on his own — with some guidance from the Red Sox — before being invited to the team’s fall instructional league at the Fenway South complex in his hometown.

Despite not having the opportunity to further develop during a traditional minor-league season last year, Ward is confident that he will be able to put his best foot forward in 2021 regardless of the circumstances.

“I think it is going to be difficult for everybody,” Ward told MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith last October. “But at the same time, I do have the confidence that I put in the work. I really committed to making sure I stayed on top of myself, made sure I kept doing what I was supposed to be doing and not let circumstances dictate if I get better or not… I’ve got to be better at the end of the day than when I woke up. That’s how I approached every single day. So hopefully when we get back into the games come spring training, or next season, whatever, hopefully I’ll be ready for it.”

Ward came into spring training this year having received an invitation to big-league camp as a non-roster invitee. He was later reassigned to minor-league camp on March 9.

In four Grapefruit League appearances, the 6-foot-3, 193 pound hurler allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits, four walks, and two hit batsmen to go along with four strikeouts in four innings of work.

“First things first, slow down. He doesn’t have to impress people,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said of Ward back in March. “We know the player. We know the stuff. We love the tempo on the mound. But we need him to be careful. Sometimes you come into spring and you want to open eyes. He doesn’t have to do that. We know what he can do.

“He’s a very likable guy, a great competitor,” added Cora. “He pays attention to details on the mound: slowing down the running game, great tempo. He knows what it takes. And stuff-wise, it’s pretty good. It’s pretty good. So excited to see him compete. I’ve been hearing about him for a few years. It’s to go out there and have a blast. That’s the most important thing.”

As he prepares to make his first career Eastern League start on Friday, Ward — who works with a sinker, cutter, slider, changeup, and curveball — is entering a somewhat pivotal year in his young career considering the fact that he is Rule 5 eligible for the first time come December.

In other words, the Red Sox will need to add Ward to their 40-man roster by November 20 if they want to protect him from this winter’s Rule 5 Draft.

Given Ward’s potential, that is almost certainly a lock to happen at the moment. Still, in what is sure to be an unprecedented season of minor-league baseball, how the righty performs this year will be something worth monitoring nonetheless.

(Picture of Thaddeus Ward: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Brian Van Belle a Red Sox pitching prospect to watch as minor-league season begins this week

Of the 16 undrafted free agents the Red Sox signed following last June’s draft, none might stick out more than right-handed pitching prospect Brian Van Belle.

Van Belle was reportedly one of the most sought-after seniors in the 2020 unsigned free agent class before inking his first professional contract with the Sox in June.

Regarded at the time by Baseball America as the 16th-ranked draft-eligible senior, the 6-foot-2, 187 pound hurler had just put the finishing touches on a successful college career at the University of Miami.

In two seasons with the Hurricanes (2019-2020) after transferring from Broward College, Van Belle emerged as Miami’s Friday night ace while posting a 2.74 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP, and a 122:28 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 20 starts and 121 2/3 total innings pitched.

Because of the 2020 minor-league season being cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the southern Florida native really did not get the chance to work under the Red Sox’ watchful eye until the team began their fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

There, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Van Belle showed why he was highly sought-after as an undrafted free agent.

“Van Belle’s bread and butter is his changeup, a plus offering and a potential difference maker,” Cundall wrote back in November. “Van Belle also showed an average fastball at 89-93 mph and below-average curveball at 77-80 mph. The changeup separated him from a lot of the younger arms who are still refining their secondary pitches and gives him a high floor of at least an organizational arm, especially with his command profile.”

Coming off that impressive showing at fall instructs, the 24-year-old came into the 2021 minor-league season ranked as the No. 53 prospect in Boston’s farm system, per SoxProspects.com.

Cundall recently updated Van Belle’s SoxProspects.com scouting report, writing that the righty “always competes [and is] used to pitching in big spots. [Possesses] strong pitchability and feel on the mound.”

As this highly-anticipated minor-league season is set to begin on Tuesday, Van Belle will start the year in High-A Greenville’s starting rotation.

The fact that Van Belle was assigned to Greenville makes him the only member of Boston’s 2020 undrafted free-agent class to begin the 2021 season at a level as high as High-A. The other 15 members are either starting at Low-A Salem or extended spring training.

(Picture of Brian Van Belle: Al Diaz/Miami Herald)

Eduard Bazardo tosses scoreless inning, picks up first career strikeout in major-league debut for Red Sox: ‘For us to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish, he will be a factor during the season,’ Alex Cora says

Lost in the shuffle of the Red Sox sweeping their doubleheader against the Twins and extending their winning streak to nine consecutive games on Wednesday was Eduard Bazardo making his major-league debut.

The 25-year-old right-hander was called up by Boston from the alternate training site to serve as the team’s 27th man in Wednesday’s twin bill.

After not making an appearance in Game 1, Bazardo was called upon to work the seventh and final inning — a point in which the Sox already had a 7-1 lead, making for a low-leverage, low-pressure outing — of Game 2.

Bazardo, donning rec specs, high socks, and the No. 83, faced five Twins hitters in total; walking two, striking out one, and getting two more to ground out.

All in all, the Venezuelan hurler needed 24 pitches — 15 of which were strikes — to work a scoreless bottom half of the seventh and lock down the 7-1 victory for his side.

Of those 24 pitches, 11 were sliders, nine were four-seam fastballs, and four were curveballs. He induced four swings-and-misses with his slider while also sitting at 93-95 mph with his heater.

Though Bazardo was ultimately and unsurprisingly sent back down to the alternate training site in Worcester following Wednesday’s action, Red Sox manager Alex Cora seemed optimistic that this will not be the last time he sees the 6-foot, 190 pound hurler pitching for the Sox this season.

“I think throughout the season, this guy, he’ll help us,” Cora said of the young righty Wednesday morning. “Good fastball. The best breaking ball. Everybody talks about it in the organization, right? A strike thrower. A strike-throwing machine. He’s not afraid. He attacks the strike zone with good stuff. He impressed a lot of people last year. He impressed me in spring training. … For us to accomplish what we’re trying to accomplish, he will be a factor during the season.”

Bazardo, who does not turn 26 until September, was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster last November on the strength of an impressive showing at the team’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

He is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the 28th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

(Picture of Eduard Bazardo: David Berding/Getty Images)

Top Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata undergoes Tommy John surgery

Top Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata has undergone Tommy John surgery, the team announced Wednesday. The procedure was done by Dr. Neal ElAttrache at the Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, Calif. on Tuesday.

Mata, who turns 22 next month, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 4 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking tops among pitchers in the organization.

The young right-hander was added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in November 2019 and — after spending 2020 at the Sox’ alternate training site and fall instructional league — came into the 2021 season with the chance to make his big-league debut later in the year.

During the early stages of spring training, though, Mata experienced soreness behind his right triceps and would later be diagnosed with a slightly torn ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow.

Because of that ailment, the 6-foot-3, 227 pound hurler was shut down for an extended period of time as the Sox initially opted for treatment as opposed to surgery.

After a few weeks of rest, Mata was able to restart his throwing program earlier this month, but must have suffered a recent setback and — as noted by MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith — “was shut down again sometime in the past seven days.”

Originally signed by the Sox out of Venezuela for just $25,000 back in January 2016, Mata has compiled a career 3.40 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 69 starts and 315 total innings of work across four minor-league levels since making his pro debut. The highest level he has reached thus far is Double-A Portland.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Mata’s pitch mix consists of a 94-96 mph fastball that sat at 96-97 mph at the alternate site last year, an 86-90 mph slider, a 78-80 mph curveball, and an 84-86 mph changeup.

Pitchers typically take anywhere between 12 to 15 months to recover from Tommy John surgery, so it’s likely Mata will not be making his return to the field until sometime next summer at the earliest.

(Picture of Bryan Mata: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox call up right-handed pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo to serve as 27th man for Wednesday’s doubleheader against Twins

As expected, the Red Sox have appointed right-handed pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo as the 27th man for Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Twins, the team announced Wednesday morning.

Bazardo, 25, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as Boston’s No. 28 prospect.

Originally signed out of Venezuela for just $8,000 back in 2014, Bazardo was added to the Red Sox’ 40-man roster in November after a strong showing at the team’s fall instructional league at Fort Myers.

The young righty “was the most impressive arm at instructs”, per SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

This spring, Bazardo allowed one earned run on two hits, two walks, and four strikeouts over four Grapefruit League appearances spanning five innings pitched. That’s good for an ERA of 1.80 and a WHIP of 0.80.

Since making his professional debut in 2015, the 6-foot, 190 pound hurler has posted a 2.55 ERA, a .215 batting average against, and a 342:81 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 100 total appearances — 31 of which were starts — and 310 innings of work across six different minor-league levels.

Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Bazardo’s pitch repertoire consists of a 94-97 mph fastball that tops out at 98 mph, an 83-87 mph curveball that features an 11-5 break, and an 88-92 mph split-finger fastball “that is still in development.”

Though it’s no sure thing Bazardo will make his big-league debut on Wednesday, the Sox called the right-hander up from the alternate training site with the idea that he could get right-handed hitters out, as the Twins usually boast a right-handed heavy lineup.

“This team (Minnesota) is very right-handed,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora said before Tuesday’s game. “Their best hitters right now are right-handed hitters. We’ll make decisions based on that.”

(Picture of Eduard Bazardo: Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Red Sox likely to call up pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo for Wednesday’s doubleheader against Twins

The Red Sox and Twins will play the middle two games of their four-game series at Target Field in a straight doubleheader on Wednesday. Each game will be seven innings long with the second one starting approximately 30 minutes after the first one ends (first pitch of the first game is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. eastern time).

Because of Wednesday’s twin-bill, both the Sox and Twins will be permitted to carry an extra player on their major-league roster for both games.

An official announcement has yet to be made by the Sox, but it would appear that right-handed pitching prospect Eduard Bazardo will be the 27th man for Boston on Wednesday.

Per his Instagram story, Bazardo, who began the season at the Red Sox’ alternate training site in Worcester, boarded a flight Tuesday morning from Boston to Nashville, then another one from Nashville to Minneapolis.

Additionally, Red Sox manager Alex Cora hinted that the team would call up a right-handed pitcher for Wednesday’s doubleheader when speaking with reporters on Tuesday.

“We’re talking about it. We’re going to go with a pitcher unless something weird happens today,” Cora said via Zoom when asked if a decision has been made as to who will be added to Boston’s roster. “But most likely we’ll add a pitcher.”

Minnesota boasts a right-handed heavy lineup that usually includes the likes of Nelson Cruz, Byron Buxton, and Miguel Sano, among others. Because of this, Boston seems keen on adding a right-hander to counter that potent offensive potential from the same side of the plate.

“We’re going to talk a little bit after this with [Dave Bush] and with Chaim [Bloom],” explained Cora. “And we’ll make the best decision for this team. [The Twins] are very right-handed. Their best hitters right now are right-handed hitters. So we’ll make decisions based on that.”

Bazardo, 25, is currently regarded by MLB Pipeline as the 28th-ranked prospect in Boston’s farm system.

The Venezuelan hurler was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster back in November on the strength of an impressive showing at the team’s fall instructional league in Fort Myers.

At fall instructs, Bazardo “was the most impressive arm” there, according to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall.

“At Instructs, all of Bazardo’s stuff was improved, as he sat 93-97 mph and often pitched at 95-96 with, as one scout called it, a ‘silly’ curveball,'” Cundall wrote of the young righty back in November. “His curveball elicited some horrible swings, and its spin rate topped 3000 rpm, which is elite. His fastball is now a plus-to-better pitch, and his curveball is solidly a plus pitch as well. His control has always been good, but he showed improved command of both his fastball and curveball. Bazardo also mixed in an occasional fringy splitter, which gave hitters something else to think about and another pitch in a different velocity band to keep them honest.”

Originally signed by the Red Sox out of Venezuela for just $8,000 in 2014, Bazardo owns a lifetime 2.55 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 100 total appearances (31 starts) and 310 innings of work across six minor-league levels since making his professional debut in June 2015.

This past spring, the 6-foot, 190 pound hurler allowed one earned run on two hits, two walks, and four strikeouts over four Grapefruit League appearances spanning five innings pitched.

If Bazardo is indeed called up on Wednesday, his stay with the Sox likely won’t last too long considering the fact the team’s roster will revert back to 26 players once the doubleheader is over.

(Picture of Eduard Bazardo: Mark Brown/Getty Images)