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 pitching prospect Bryan Mata extends scoreless innings streak to 18 in latest strong start for Double-A Portland

It appears as though Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata may be ready for a promotion to Triple-A Worcester.

In his latest start for Double-A Portland on Wednesday night, Mata scattered five hits and two walks to go along with a season-high nine strikeouts over six scoreless innings of work in an 8-0 win over the Hartford Yard Goats. The 23-year-old right-hander threw 94 pitches (61 strikes) and induced 11 swings-and-misses.

Since making the jump from High-A Greenville in late June, Mata has posted a 1.85 ERA and 3.58 FIP with 58 strikeouts to 23 walks over 10 appearances (9 starts) spanning 48 2/3 innings with the Sea Dogs this season. He has not allowed a run in his last 18 innings pitched.

Among Eastern League pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings to this point in the year, Mata ranks 23rd in strikeout rate (29.4%), ninth in groundball rate (52.2%), 26th in batting average against (.202), second in ERA, 21st in FIP, and 14th in xFIP (3.57), per FanGraphs.

Mata, who missed the entirety of the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last April, 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.

The Red Sox originally signed Mata for just $25,000 as an international free-agent coming out of Venezuela in January 2016. The Maracay native was added to Boston’s 40-man roster in November 2020 and seemed destined to make his big-league debut in 2021. But he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow that spring, which ultimately required him to go under the knife.

Sixteen months later and Mata is once again putting himself on the map. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound was clocked at 100 mph with his four-seam fastball during an extended spring training start in May. His other offerings include a two-seam fastball, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup.

Mata, who does not turn 24 until next May, would become the latest in a long line of Red Sox pitching prospects to make the transition from Double-A to Triple-A this season. Bello, who has since made his major-league debut, and Brandon Walter were both promoted in May. Chris Murphy was promoted the following month while fellow southpaw Jay Groome — who has since been traded to the Padres– was promoted in July. Victor Santos was also promoted earlier this month.

(Picture of Bryan Mata: Brace Hemmelgarn/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 pitching prospect Bryan Mata set to begin rehab assignment with Low-A Salem

Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata is slated to begin a rehab assignment with Low-A Salem and could start for the affiliate as soon as this weekend, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Mata, who underwent Tommy John surgery last April, pitched in three extended spring training games down in Fort Myers over the last few weeks. Per Speier, the right-hander “showed elite velocity in his first outing” by topping out at 101 mph over two innings, then worked at “just” 99 mph in his second outing and 98 mph in his third.

Originally signed by the Red Sox for just $25,000 out of Venezuela in January 2016, Mata is currently regarded by Baseball America as the No. 11 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks fifth among pitchers in the organization.

After posting a 3.43 ERA in 21 starts (105 innings pitched) between then-High-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2019 and impressing at the alternate training site in 2020, Mata was added to the Sox’ 40-man roster that November.

Coming into spring training last year, Mata was likely going to begin the season with Triple-A Worcester. He instead tore his ulnar collateral ligament in March, which ultimately required him to go under the knife.

Now 23 years old, Mata has a chance to get to Worcester once again. Pre-surgery, the 6-foot-3, 229 pound righty worked with a five-pitch mix that consisted of a 94-96 mph four-seam fastball, a 91-93 mph two-seam fastball, an 86-90 mph slider, a 78-80 mph curveball, and an 84-86 changeup.

There were also some questions regarding Mata’s future. In other words, would he be best-suited as a starter or reliever in the long-term? These next few months could help determine that, though he should have a high ceiling regardless of which role he ultimately undertakes.

When Mata does take the mound for Salem, it will mark the first time he has pitched in an official minor-league game since August 2019. The Red Sox will be sure to exhibit patience with Mata during this process, but the hope seems to be that he will end the season in Worcester or maybe even in Boston.

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

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward faces live hitters for first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery

Red Sox pitching prospect Thaddeus Ward took another important step in his road back from Tommy John surgery on Friday. At JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, the right-hander faced live batters for the first time since going under the knife last June.

“First Live BP today!” Ward tweeted. “Another box has been checked, we’re getting close!”

Ward came into the 2021 season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 10 prospect in Boston’s farm system. He made just two starts for Double-A Portland before being shut down with a forearm strain that would ultimately require Tommy John. The procedure was performed by Dr. James Andrews on June 3.

As the one-year anniversary of Ward’s elbow reconstruction nears, it appears as though the 25-year-old is close to getting back into minor-league games. Since it has been more than a year since he last pitched competitively, his first assignment will likely come in the Florida Complex League.

Originally selected by the Red Sox in the fifth round of the 2018 amateur draft out of the University of Central Florida, Ward drew plenty of attention in his first full professional season. The Fort Myers native posted a 2.14 ERA and 3.28 FIP with 157 strikeouts to 57 walks over 25 starts (126 1/3 innings) between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem en route to being named the organization’s 2019 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

After the 2020 campaign was lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic and his 2021 season was for the most part lost because of surgery, Ward is now regarded by Baseball America as the No. 20 prospect in Boston’s farm system, which ranks ninth among pitchers in the organization.

Prior to undergoing Tommy John, Ward operated with a repeatable delivery and worked from a pitch arsenal that included a 93-96 mph sinker, a slider, a cutter, and a changeup.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Ward can become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this winter if the Red Sox do not add him to their 40-man roster by the November deadline. Because of this, the righty — as noted by FanGraphs’ Kevin Goldstein and Tess Taruskin — could be a prime candidate to pitch in the Arizona Fall League later this year.

That way, the Sox would get an extended look at Ward before determining if he was worthy of a 40-man roster spot. Other teams, meanwhile, would also get the chance to evaluate Ward in the event that he was not protected from the Rule 5 Draft this fall.

While it’s extremely unlikely Ward will contribute at the big-league level in 2022, he does project as a back-end starter or multi-inning reliever in the future.

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

Dominic LoBrutto becomes latest Red Sox pitching prospect to undergo Tommy John surgery

Dominic LoBrutto has become the latest Red Sox pitching prospect to undergo Tommy John surgery. Per his Twitter account, the procedure was recently performed by Dr. James Andrews at the Andrews Institute in Pensacola, Fla.

A native of Florida himself, LoBrutto was originally selected by the Red Sox in the 18th round of the 2017 amateur draft out of Florida International University. The left-hander signed with Boston for $100,000 and made his professional debut for the Lowell Spinners that summer.

Fast forward to the 2021 season, and LoBrutto spent the entirety of the year with Double-A Portland. In 33 relief appearances for the Sea Dogs, the 25-year-old posted a 5.35 ERA — but much more respectable 3.88 FIP — with 38 strikeouts to 14 walks over 38 2/3 innings of work.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, LoBrutto operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of an 88-90 mph fastball that tops out at 91 mph, an 86-88 mph cutter, and a 79-82 mph slider, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report. He was slated to return to Portland for the start of the 2022 campaign, but was instead placed on the 7-day injured list on April 8 and transferred to the 60-day injured list on April 26.

LoBrutto, who turns 26 later this month, will now be sidelined for the next 12-15 months before returning to the mound at some point in 2023. He becomes the latest Red Sox pitching prospect to undergo Tommy John this year, joining the likes of Bradley Blalock and fellow lefty Jeremy Wu-Yelland.

(Picture of Dominic LoBrutto: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Jeremy Wu-Yelland undergoes Tommy John surgery

Red Sox pitching prospect Jeremy Wu-Yelland has undergone Tommy John surgery and will miss the entirety of the 2022 season as a result. The left-hander had the procedure done in Arlington, Texas on Wednesday.

Wu-Yelland, 22, came into the 2022 campaign ranked by Baseball America as the No. 31 prospect in Boston’s farm system, ranking 12th among pitchers in the organization. The Red Sox originally selected the Seattle-area native in the fourth round of the 2020 amateur draft out of the University of Hawaii.

In his first full professional season, Wu-Yelland posted a 4.03 ERA and 4.29 FIP to go along with 77 strikeouts to 36 walks over 20 starts (67 innings pitched) for Low-A Salem. He then earned a promotion to High-A Greenville last September and pitched to the tune of a 3.00 ERA and 4.99 FIP in three starts (9 innings of work) with the Drive.

Listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Wu-Yelland operates with a three-pitch mix that consists of a 92-96 mph fastball that can reach 97 mph, an 81-85 mph slider, and an 81-83 mph changeup, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

Wu-Yelland, who turns 23 in June, was slated to return to Greenville for the start of the 2022 season but was instead placed on the 7-day injured list earlier this month. Now that he has undergone Tommy John, the lefty will be sidelined for the next 12 to 15 months and should be able to return to the mound again at some point in 2023.

(Picture of Jeremy Wu-Yelland: Kelly O’Connor/sittingstill.smugmug.com)

Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata nearing return from Tommy John surgery

Red Sox pitching prospect is nearing his return to the mound and will soon start throwing live batting practice, according to The Boston Globe’s Alex Speier.

Mata, who turns 23 next month, underwent Tommy John surgery last April after slightly tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during spring training. The procedure was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

Originally signed out of Venezuela for just $25,000 as an international free agent in 2016, Mata comes into the 2022 season regarded by Baseball America as the No. 8 prospect in the Red Sox’ farm system, ranking second among pitchers in the organization behind only Brayan Bello.

While continuing to rehab from Tommy John surgery this spring, Mata was seen throwing off flat ground and going through drills on the back fields of the Fenway South complex in Fort Myers.

As noted by Speier, Mata is expected to join Triple-A Worcester’s starting rotation at some point this season. The right-hander is already a member of Boston’s 40-man roster, so him contributing at the big-league level later in the year is not out of the picture, either.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 229 pounds, Mata operates with a five-pitch mix that consists of a 94-96 mph four-seam fastball, a 91-93 mph two-seam fastball, an 86-90 mph slider, a 78-80 mph curveball, and an 84-86 changeup, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.

That, of course, was before Mata underwent elbow reconstruction one year ago. If he can retain that arsenal to some degree, the righty — as Speier writes — could “could emerge as a mid- to late-year bullpen option” for the Red Sox.

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

Red Sox sign reliever Dan Altavilla to two-year minor-league deal, per report; right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery last June

The Red Sox have signed free-agent reliever Dan Altavilla to a two-year minor-league contract, according to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. The 29-year-old right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery last June and may miss most if not all of the 2022 season.

A former fifth-round draft selection of the Mariners out of Mercyhurst University (Erie, Pa.) in 2014, Altavilla debuted for Seattle in 2016. Four years later, the Pennsylvania native was traded to the Padres as part of a larger deal that also sent pitcher Austin Adams and catcher Austin Nola to San Diego.

In nine appearances out of the Friars’ bullpen down the stretch in 2020, Altavilla posted a 3.12 ERA and 2.61 FIP with 10 strikeouts to five walks over 8 2/3 innings of work.

Last season, Altavilla was limited to just two relief outings in April before being placed on the 10-day injured list due to right elbow inflammation. The righty was then transferred to the 60-day injured list on May 28 — approximately one month before he ultimately went under the knife.

The Padres outrighted Altavilla off their 40-man roster in November, allowing him to become a free agent in the first place.

Since Altavilla is still recovering from Tommy John, it feels safe to assume that the Red Sox made this move with either the second half of the 2022 season or the beginning of the 2023 season in mind.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 226 pounds, Altavilla is a two-pitch pitcher who works primarily with a slider and a high-octane four-seam fastball. For his big-league career, which spans six seasons between the Mariners and Padres, Altavillia owns a 4.03 ERA and 4.39 FIP in 116 innings.

(Picture of Dan Altavilla: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)