The MRI Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata underwent on Thursday revealed a slight tear in his ulnar collateral ligament, manager Alex Cora announced Saturday morning.
Mata, 21, was originally slated to pitch in Wednesday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Twins, but was ultimately scratched from that appearance due to soreness behind his right triceps.
After undergoing that aforementioned MRI the following day, it turns out that Mata has a slightly torn UCL. The Red Sox will try to treat the ailment without surgery for the time being.
“Unfortunately with Bryan, he has a slight tear in his UCL,” Cora told reporters earlier Saturday. “So we’re going to shut him down. The way we’re going to go with him is going to be treatment. The doctors and the physicians feel that it’s small enough that with treatment and doing that, he should be fine.”
A fiery right-hander out of Venezuela, Mata came into spring training as the top pitching prospect — and the No. 4 overall prospect — in the Red Sox farm system according to Baseball America.
There is currently no timetable set for his return, but it would appear that the Sox have already created a roadmap of sorts for their young hurler.
“There’s no timetable,” said Cora. “There’s going to be a few checkpoints throughout the process, and if he’s disciplined and follows everything that we are set to do, the hope is for him to come back.”
Boston originally signed Mata out of Venezuela for just $25,000 back in early 2016. Since making his pro debut later that year, the 6-foot-3, 238 lb. righty has compiled a 3.40 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 69 career starts spanning 315 innings pitched across four minor-league levels.
With there being no minor-league season in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and all, Mata spent time at both the Sox’ alternate training site in Pawtucket and fall instructional league in Fort Myers last year. He was added to the club’s 40-man roster in November.
Given how he has risen through the prospect ranks, it appeared that Mata was primed to make his big-league debut at some point this season, but that may now have to wait due to this unexpected hurdle.
“As you guys know, he’s very important for us,” said Cora. “It’s a tough one, but at the same time we do believe that he’s going to bounce back and he’s going to be OK.”
Per his SoxProspects.com scouting report, Mata’s pitch mix consists of a high-octane fastball, a curveball, a slider, and a changeup. His fastball sat between 96-97 mph at the alternate site over the summer and tops out at 100 mph.
“Obviously we have to be patient and see how he reacts,” Cora said in regards to Mata’s road to recovery. ““When you start talking about the UCL, obviously it’s something that we don’t feel comfortable, of course, because it’s the UCL. We’ve just got to be patient. And he has to be patient. He’s young enough that probably everything’s going fast for him right now. But he’s mature enough, too, to understand that these things happen over the course of your career. He did an amazing job in the offseason to get in shape and get his arm where it’s supposed to be. It’s an obstacle in his career. But we do feel like he’s going to bounce back and he’s going to be OK.”
(Picture of Bryan Mata: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)