Winckowski rewards love shown by Red Sox

Prospect continues stellar run in rotation with 4th straight strong start

July 3rd, 2022

CHICAGO – From injuries come opportunities.

No. 13 Red Sox prospect  is seizing the one that has been created for him due to Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Whitlock and now Rich Hill all being on the injured list at once.

Pitching at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, Winckowski pitched more than well enough to win, though he was on the hook for a tough-luck, 3-1 loss.

The big righty fired six innings and scattered six mostly soft hits, allowing two runs (one earned) while walking one and striking out six.

“I felt really good,” said Winckowski. “I think this is probably the best my location has felt since being up here and in terms of working both sides of the plate and landing the slider I need for a strike.”

Winckowski threw 94 pitches. Of the 17 balls the Cubs put in play against him, the average exit velocity was 75.8 mph.

Just one of Chicago’s hits against Winckowski left the infield.

“And it was on the slider,” Winckowski said. “I don’t think they got the sinker out of the infield. Felt like I kept them off-balanced all day.”

Acquired from the Mets as part of the three-team deal that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals on Feb. 10, 2021, Winckowski has the chance to make that a winning trade for Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom.

Benintendi is eligible for free agency this winter, and Winckowski is under the control of the Red Sox for many more years.

“Obviously I’m really thankful for the Red Sox that they did trade for me,” Winckowski said. “Nothing against the Mets, but I definitely feel like it’s working out better here than it would have with the Mets.

“I’ve said before, the Mets were trying to like me, but they didn’t really love me. I think the Red Sox have shown a lot of love to me. I’m really fortunate. Just being in the rotation, I knew that was a possibility this year but you’re not really sure how the year will play out so it’s been pretty awesome to get starts in the big leagues.”

While the 24-year-old had a rocky MLB debut when he was called up to pitch Game 2 of a doubleheader on May 28, he has been strong in all four of his outings since getting the call back to Boston on June 15 to plug a hole in the injury-depleted rotation.

“I think, obviously with where we’re at with injuries and all that, we trust the people we have in the system and he’s one of them,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “The first one … forget the first one. But after that, he’s been able to be here, follow the lead of a lot of guys in there, study the scouting reports and get in the workouts and all that stuff. He’s been really good for us.”

In those last four starts, Winckowski is 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA.

Is his confidence growing since he first took the ball for the Red Sox? Um, yeah. Just a bit.

“It’s hard to put to words. It’s double, triple, I would say,” Winckowski said. “Just knowing the guys better and just to be able to build a routine and everything and all that. That plays into a part of how you feel on the mound. I just feel a lot more comfortable.”

Winckowski’s comfortability is particularly important when you figure his next start is all but certain to come against the fearsome Yankees, who come to Boston for a four-game series that starts Thursday.

He certainly felt comfortable pitching at Wrigley Field. In fact, Winckowski surprisingly threw some shade at the venerable old yard, which is the second oldest in baseball to Fenway Park.

“To be honest, a little underwhelming,” Winckowski said of Wrigley. “Fenway kind of has a presence to it. I really didn’t get that here, to be honest. I kind of said to my mom last night, this place is very stock, standard if you ask me. I didn’t really feel anything, to be honest. It kind of just felt like another ballpark.”

Fortunately for the Red Sox, Winckowski is looking like he could be more than just another prospect.

And the timing of Winckowski’s emergence could not be better.

“I’m not really too concerned with the injuries, to be honest. When I’m called upon and the team needs innings, I just like to fill that gap,” said Winckowski. “I’m not really concerned with how it comes. Helping the team in any way that I can always feels good. It’s just kind of mainly what I’m concerned about.”