Red Sox to promote top pitching prospect Bryan Mata to Triple-A Worcester, per report

The Red Sox have promoted top pitching prospect Bryan Mata to Triple-A Worcester, according to MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith. The right-hander is expected to make his first start for the WooSox in Tuesday’s series opener against the Buffalo Bisons at Polar Park.

Mata, 23, is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 7 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks second among pitchers in the organization behind only fellow righty Brayan Bello.

Originally signed out of Venezuela for just $25,000 as an international free-agent in January 2016, Mata was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster in November 2020. The Maracay native seemed destined to make his major-league debut at some point during the 2021 campaign, but he wound up undergoing Tommy John surgery last April after tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Thirteen months after going under the knife, Mata returned to the mound with a bang. The hard-throwing righty topped out at 100 mph with his four-seam fastball during an extended spring training start in May and was sent out on a rehab assignment shortly thereafter.

By early summer, Mata had gotten his feet between Low-A Salem and High-A Greenville, prompting a promotion to Double-A Portland on June 28. In 10 appearances (nine starts) for the Sea Dogs since then, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound hurler has posted a 1.85 ERA and 3.57 FIP with 58 strikeouts to 23 walks over 48 2/3 innings of work. That includes an ongoing stretch of 18 consecutive scoreless frames dating back to August 12.

Among Eastern League pitchers who — as of Sunday morning — have thrown at least 40 innings to this point in the year, Mata ranks 22nd in strikeout rate (29.4%), ninth in groundball rate (52.2%), 27th in batting average against (.202), second in ERA, 20th in FIP, and 13th in xFIP (3.57), per FanGraphs.

In addition to his high-octane four-seamer, Mata operates with a two-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. The curveball and slider are considered to be his two best secondary pitches.

Mata, who does not turn 24 until next May, could soon join Bello in making his major-league debut for the Red Sox. In the meantime, he becomes just the latest Boston pitching prospect to make the jump from Portland to Worcester this season joining the likes of Bello, Chris Murphy, Brandon Walter, and Victor Santos, among others.

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

Red Sox’ Trevor Story to begin rehab assignment with Double-A Portland on Wednesday

Red Sox second baseman Trevor Story will begin a rehab assignment with Double-A Portland on Wednesday, manager Alex Cora said before Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Story has been sidelined since July 12, when he was hit in the right hand by an 89 mph sinker from Rays starter Corey Kluber. After X-rays came back negative, Story was diagnosed with a right hand contusion. The Red Sox were hopeful that he would avoid the injured list but placed him on the 10-day IL four days later.

Nearly two weeks after being placed on the injured list, Story began to swing a bat again. But the right-handed hitter still complained of discomfort and was unable to grip a bat properly. That prompted the Red Sox to send Story to get a second opinion from a hand specialist, who diagnosed the 29-year-old with a small hairline fracture near his right wrist.

Following that diagnosis, Story was shut down from swinging for 10-14 days. He resumed swinging earlier this month and progressed to the point where he was hitting off a tee before joining the Red Sox on their most-recent road trip last week.

While with the club in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Story hit indoors off a high-velocity pitching machine. On Tuesday afternoon, he told The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier that he took batting practice on the field for the first time breaking his wrist.

With the WooSox on the road this week, Story will join the Sea Dogs in Portland for their series against the Hartford Yard Goats. Cora was not sure how many games or at-bats Story would need before being cleared to return to the Red Sox.

Story, who signed a six-year, $140 million deal with Boston in March, was batting .221/.289/.423 with 17 doubles, 15 home runs, 58 RBIs, 49 runs scored, 10 stolen bases, 28 walks, and 105 strikeouts over 81 games (342 plate appearances) at the time of his injury.

Coming into this season, Story had never played second base in his six seasons with the Rockies. Despite that lack of experience, the two-time All-Star currently ranks first among all American League second baseman in Defensive Runs Saved (8) and third in Outs Above Average (9), per FanGraphs.

Taking that into consideration, Cora indicated on Tuesday that once Story is back, “there’s a good chance” Christian Arroyo will slide over to first base after holding down the fort at second during Story’s absence.

(Picture of Trevor Story: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ James Paxton pulled from first rehab start after facing just 2 batters due to lat tightness

UPDATE: Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including The Eagle-Tribune’s Mac Cerullo) at PNC Park on Thursday that Paxton will be seeing a doctor on Friday. The team will know more after that.

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Red Sox left-hander James Paxton began a rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League on Thursday. His first start did not last long.

Starting for the FCL Red Sox in their contest against the FCL Rays at JetBlue Park, Paxton was forced to exit after facing just two batters due to left lat (latissimus dorsi muscle on the back) tightness, according to MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo.

Paxton was slated to pitch three innings on Thursday afternoon. It was his first start at any level since April 6 of last year, when — as a member of the Mariners — he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery one week later.

The Red Sox, per Cotillo, are optimistic that Paxton’s latest injury is a minor one. Boston signed the 33-year-old southpaw to a unique one-year, $6 million contract last December. The deal includes a two-year, $26 million option that the club can pick up at the end of the season. If they decline it, Paxton could then exercise a $4 million player option for the 2023 campaign.

Given that he started a rehab assignment on Thursday, August 18, Paxton could have been on track to make his Red Sox debut at some point in mid-September. With this latest setback, though, it remains to be seen if the Canadian-born lefty will be able to pitch this season.

As noted by Cotillo, it is still too early to determine if Paxton will need to be shut down from throwing due to this lat injury. On their end, the Red Sox have not yet said if Paxton will return to the big-leagues as a starter or reliever.

A veteran of nine major-league seasons between the Mariners and Yankees, Paxton has traditionally been a starter throughout his career. In his lone appearance for Seattle last April, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound hurler hovered around 92-96 mph with his four-seam fastball. He also works with a curveball, cutter, and changeup.

(Picture of James Paxton: Bryan Green/Flickr)

Red Sox’ James Paxton set to begin rehab assignment in Florida Complex League on Thursday

Red Sox left-hander James Paxton will make his organizational debut when he starts a rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League on Thursday, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Paxton, per Speier, is slated to pitch three innings when the FCL Red Sox take on the FCL Rays at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers. It will be his first start at any level since April 6 of last year.

Then a member of the Mariners, Paxton tore his left ulnar collateral ligament in the second inning of his start against the White Sox. He underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery one week later.

Boston signed the 33-year-old southpaw to a unique one-year, $6 million contract last December. The deal includes a two-year, $26 million club option that the Red Sox can pick up at the end of the season. If they decline, Paxton could then exercise a $4 million player option for the 2023 campaign.

While injuries have hindered him throughout his big-league career, Paxton has proven to be an effective starer when healthy. With the Yankees in 2019, for instance, the Canadian-born hurler posted a 3.82 ERA and 3.86 FIP with 186 strikeouts to 55 walks over 29 starts spanning 150 2/3 innings of work. He has been limited to just six outings since then because of injury.

It remains to be seen how many rehab appearances Paxton will need before he is able to join the Red Sox’ starting rotation. Last year, fellow lefty Chris Sale made five starts across three levels while rehabbing from Tommy John before making his season debut for Boston on August 14.

Using that same sort of template, Paxton could potentially be back in the majors by early September, though that is no sure thing. In the meantime, it should be interesting to see how Paxton responds as he returns to competitive action. Last April, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder sat between 92-96 mph with his four-seam fastball. He also traditionally works with a curveball, cutter, and changeup.

When the time comes for the Red Sox to activate Paxton, they will presumably need to clear a spot on their 40-man roster since he has been on the 60-day injured list since March.

(Picture of James Paxton: Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Trevor Story swings bat for first time since suffering right hand contusion

For the first time in nearly two weeks, Red Sox second baseman Trevor Story swung a bat on Sunday.

Story has not appeared in a game since July 13 after taking an 89 mph sinker from Corey Kluber off his right hand on an awkward swing at Tropicana Field the night before. The 29-year-old was diagnosed with a right hand contusion and X-rays on said hand came back negative.

Boston placed Story on the 10-day injured list on July 16, retroactive to July 14. Prior to Sunday’s milestone taking place, the right-handed hitting infielder had been limited to just tracking pitches in the batter’s box.

When speaking with reporters (including MassLive.com’s Christopher Smith) ahead of Sunday’s 8-4 loss to the Blue Jays at Fenway Park, Red Sox manager Alex Cora expressed optimism when providing an update on Story’s status.

“He swung today,” said Cora. “A lot better. So we’ll see how he reacts during the day and hopefully, at some point this week, he’ll be OK. But he swung today. He swung early. So things are trending in the right direction.”

While Cora indicated that Story could return to the fold in the coming days, he could not give a definitive answer when asked if the two-time All-Star will require a rehab assignment prior to getting activated off the injured list.

“We’ll talk about it,” Cora said.

Story, meanwhile, is itching to get back at it. In the first year of the six-year, $140 million deal he signed with Boston in March, Story is currently batting .221/.289/.423 (93 wRC+) with 17 doubles, 15 home runs, 58 RBIs, 10 stolen bases, 49 runs scored, 28 walks, and 105 strikeouts over 81 games (342 plate appearances). He has also provided the Sox with exceptional defense at second base (positive-8 defensive runs saved), a position the ex-Rockie never played at the major-league level prior to this season.

“I feel much better and just rehabbing around the clock. The whole time trying to get better,” Story explained to The Boston Globe’s Julian McWilliams on Sunday. “Definitely moving in the right direction. Once I can get [the hand] going and let it rip without crazy soreness, then that will be good. I just have been playing around with the bat just because it’s hard for me to stay away from it.”

(Picture of Trevor Story: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox pull Kiké Hernández from rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester

The Red Sox have pulled outfielder Enrique Hernandez from his rehab assignment with Triple-A Worcester, the club announced Tuesday.

Hernandez, who has been sidelined since June 8 with a right hip flexor strain, made just one rehab appearance for the WooSox at Polar Park last Friday. He was slated to play on Saturday as well but felt too much discomfort in his hip to do so.

With that, the Red Sox have opted to shut Hernandez down for the time being. The versatile 30-year-old underwent testing conducted by team officials on Monday and is slated to see a specialist outside of Boston later this week, per manager Alex Cora.

“There’s a good chance he’s going to go see a doctor, not in Boston, during the week,” Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) on Tuesday. “He doesn’t feel great so we have to back off and now see if there’s something else that’s going on that we haven’t seen in our testing or if something else came up. I think we’ll know more now during the week.”

After signing a two-year, $14 million deal with Boston last February, Hernandez emerged as the Red Sox’ everyday centerfielder and proved to be a sparkplug in October by posting a 1.260 OPS in 11 postseason contests.

This season, however, the right-handed hitter struggled to the tune of a .209/.273/.340 slash line to go along with four home runs and 24 RBIs across 51 games (238 plate appearances) prior to getting hurt in early June.

There is a chance that Hernandez’s prolonged absence will result in Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom pursuing additional outfield help ahead of next month’s trade deadline to supplement the likes of Alex Verdugo, Jarren Duran, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Rob Refsnyder.

In the meantime, the Sox will have to continue on without Hernandez, which, for Cora, is a disappointment.

“It sucks because we felt, at one point, that he was making strides,” said Cora. “Obviously, that’s why we let him play. Now, we just have to be very patient.”

(Picture of Enrique Hernandez: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Red Sox top prospect Triston Casas begins rehab assignment in Florida Complex League

Top Red Sox prospect Triston Casas began a rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League on Tuesday afternoon.

Batting third and starting at first base for the FCL Red Sox in their game against the FCL Braves at JetBlue Park, Casas went 0-for-1 with two walks and a strikeout. He was replaced at first base by Lyonell James in the top of the sixth inning.

Tuesday’s outing marked Casas’ first in-game action at any level since May 17, when he suffered a high right ankle sprain while running the basepaths at Polar Park. He was placed on Triple-A Worcester’s injured list five days later and has been rehabbing in Fort Myers since early June.

Due to the nature of his sprain, the left-handed hitting 22-year-old struggled to put any weight on his landing foot, which prevented him from swinging a bat pain-free until just recently.

Prior to spraining his ankle, Casas was batting .248/.359/.457 with nine doubles, six home runs, 22 RBIs, 22 runs scored, 23 walks, and 35 strikeouts in his first 36 games (156 plate appearances) of the season with the WooSox.

Regarded by Baseball America as the No. 2 prospect in Boston’s farm system and the No. 29 prospect in all of baseball, Casas very well could have been on the cusp of making his major-league debut right about now had he stayed healthy.

Instead, the former first-round pick out of American Heritage High School has lost nearly two months of development time. With that, it seems unlikely that Casas will be getting called up anytime soon, though a late-season promotion certainly cannot be ruled out depending on where the Red Sox are at later in the year.

(Picture of Triston Casas: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox’ Chris Sale to make 2022 debut against Rays on Tuesday

It’s official: Chris Sale will make his 2022 debut for the Red Sox when they go up against the Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night.

Sale has spent the entirety of the season on the 60-day injured list due to a right rib cage stress fracture he sustained while throwing a bullpen session at his alma mater, Florida Gulf Coast University, back in February. His recovery was then slowed for a few weeks in May because of a non-baseball health concern related to his family’s medical history.

After resuming his throwing program, Sale began a rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League on June 20. The 33-year-old left-hander made two starts for Boston’s rookie-level affiliate before moving up to Double-A Portland. He then made one start for the Sea Dogs before taking his rehab to Triple-A Worcester on Wednesday.

Matched up against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Polar Park, Sale allowed one run on three hits and five walks to go along with five strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings of work. Forty-two of the 72 pitches he threw went for strikes as he mixed in a high-90s fastball, mid-80s changeup, and high-70s slider.

Despite the high number of walks and the fact he did not pitch more than four innings in any of his outings, Sale will return to the Sox’ rotation to start the second game of their four-game series with the Rays.

Sale’s return should be a welcomed one, as the Red Sox currently find themselves mired in starting rotation issues with Nathan Eovaldi, Rich Hill, and Michael Wacha all out on the injured list for the time being.

Since undergoing Tommy John surgery in March 2020, Sale has made just nine starts for Boston over the last three seasons. Unlike his recovery from elbow reconstruction, though, the veteran lefty says he is in a better place physically because he has not had to build back up his arm strength.

“Coming back from a major arm surgery last year, there were a lot of question marks still,” Sale said Wednesday. “This year’s more of just sharpening the sword, not rebuilding it.”

A seven-time All-Star, Sale is in the third year of the five-year, $145 million contract extension he signed with the Red Sox in March 2019. He has the ability to opt out of his deal at season’s end, though that seems unlikely to happen.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Red Sox’ Chris Sale walks 5 in latest rehab start for Triple-A Worcester

In the fourth and possibly final start of his rehab assignment, Red Sox left-hander produced mixed results for Triple-A Worcester on Wednesday night.

Pitching in front of a crowd of 8,891 at Polar Park, Sale allowed one run on three hits and five walks to go along with five strikeouts over just 3 2/3 innings of work in the WooSox’ 4-2 loss to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

After tossing four innings in Portland last Thursday, the plan was for Sale to get stretched out to 65 pitches on Wednesday. A wrench was instead thrown into those plans due to a high pitch count.

Sale walked two of the first five batters he faced in the first inning and issued one more while striking out two of the four batters he faced in the top of the second. A leadoff walk of Tim Locastro to begin things in the third was negated when Jake Bauers grounded into an inning-ending, 4-6-3 double play.

In the fourth, Sale gave up back-to-back softy-hit singles to Phillip Evans and Greg Bird to lead off the inning. He then got the first out of the inning before giving up another weak single to Chris Owings that filled the bases.

A five-pitch punchout of Armando Alvarez increased Sale’s pitch count to 66. Rather than get pulled from the game, he got a visit from WooSox pitching coach Paul Abbott, who told him he had a hard limit of 70 pitches.

Sale followed that exchange by issuing a six-pitch walk to No. 9 hitter David Freitas, who proved to be the final RailRider he would face as Evans scored from third to make it a 1-1 game at the time.

Finishing with a final pitch count of 72 (42 strikes), Sale induced 14 swings-and-misses. The 33-year-old southpaw also averaged 94 mph and topped out at 97 mph with his fastball while mixing in a mid-80s changeup and high-70s slider, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

When speaking with reporters (including Speier) Wednesday night, Sale indicated that the lack of command he displayed can be attributed to an issue with his delivery, which he believes can be fixed easily.

“It’s nothing that can’t be cleaned up in this next week [with] a couple bullpen sessions,” Sale said. “This doesn’t really set me back.”

Sale began the season on the 60-day injured list due to a right rib cage stress fracture that he sustained in February. His return was then slowed for a period of time in May because of a non-baseball health concern related to his family’s medical history.

If this was indeed Sale’s final rehab outing, he would be on track to return to the Red Sox’ starting rotation during their series against the Rays in Tampa Bay next week. If not, he could make another start for one of Boston’s minor-league affiliates in order to refine his command before re-joining the big-league club.

Either way, Sale says he is feeling good physically and is in a different place than he was at this time last year while working his way back from Tommy John surgery.

“Coming back from a major arm surgery last year, there were a lot of question marks still,” said Sale. “This year’s more of just sharpening the sword, not rebuilding it.”

(Picture of Chris Sale: Katie Morrison/MassLive)

Red Sox’ Chris Sale to make next rehab start for Triple-A Worcester on Wednesday

Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale will make another rehab start for Triple-A Worcester on Wednesday, manager Alex Cora said at Wrigley Field before Friday’s game against the Cubs.

The WooSox will be hosting the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at Polar Park that night. First pitch is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. eastern time.

Sale has made three rehab appearances thus far, with his latest coming for Double-A Portland on Thursday. The left-hander allowed just one run on four hits and no walks to go along with seven strikeouts over four innings of work in the Sea Dogs’ 15-4 win over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats at Hadlock Field.

Of the 52 pitches Sale threw, 36 went for strikes and 17 were of the swing-and-miss variety. With Elih Marrero doing the catching, he mixed in his two- and four-seam fastball, slider, and changeup while topping out at 96 mph with his heater.

Since beginning his rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League on June 25, Sale has been making his starts on four days of rest. The WooSox, however, are off on Tuesday so Sale will be making his next outing on an additional day of rest.

It remains to be seen if Sale will need one or two more rehab starts before he re-joins the Red Sox. The 33-year-old began the season on the 60-day injured list because of a stress fracture in his right rib cage that he suffered back in February. His throwing program was then slowed for a period of time in May due to a non-baseball health concern related to his family’s medical history.

The Red Sox would like to see Sale get stretched out to five innings before activating him from the injured list. If that happens in Worcester on Wednesday, the seven-time All-Star could be in line to make his 2022 debut when the Sox go up against the Rays in Tampa Bay on July 11.

(Picture of Chris Sale: Katie Morrison/MassLive)