No. 9 prospect Gonzalez gets 1st taste of Fenway in awards ceremony

Hard-throwing righty tabbed organization's Starting Pitcher of the Year

September 27th, 2023

BOSTON -- Soaking in the ambiance of Fenway Park for the first time, Boston's No. 9 prospect Wikelman Gonzalez was on hand to receive the organization’s Starting Pitcher of the Year Award prior to Tuesday night’s 9-7 loss to the Rays.

This was an award Gonzalez couldn’t have been considering at the end of April, a month which saw him compile an 0-2 record and a 15.58 ERA at High-A Greenville.

But Gonzalez dug deep to make the adjustments necessary that turned the rest of his season into one of perseverance and breakout success.

In mid-July, the hard-throwing righty earned a promotion to Double-A Portland, where he handled the transition to a higher level with ease. In 25 starts this season, the 21-year-old Gonzalez went 9-4 with a 3.96 ERA. After his promotion to Double-A, Gonzalez went 3-1 with a 2.42 ERA in 10 starts.

“Yeah, it was a very rough start for me,” Gonzalez said through team interpreter Carlos Villoria. “I remember April was very tough for me, but I changed some things in my routine to help me be successful throughout the year. I’m glad they did, because that helped put me in a better position during the year.

“I pushed myself to go to the gym a little bit more, tried to be more consistent with my routine, trying to focus more on exercise and all my workouts so I could be in a better position.”

Those workouts led to an improvement in his pitches.

“It was a big improvement for me to be able to control the strike zone, to be able to locate my pitches. I think everything,” said Gonzalez, who was an international signing by the Red Sox on July 2, 2018.

Gonzalez hopes to position himself to be at Fenway Park full-time in the next year or two, rather than just stopping by as a visitor.

“It makes me proud, I’m very proud. It's the first time that I've stepped into Fenway,” Gonzalez said. “I cannot describe the feelings that I’m going through right now. I'm really happy to be here. I'm very honored for this opportunity.”

Does he have a goal of when he would like to be in the starting rotation for the Red Sox?

“I think God's time is perfect,” said Gonzalez. “I'm gonna leave it at that. I think whenever the time comes, I'm going to be ready. I'm going to enjoy it and we're going to try to take advantage of it.”

Roman Anthony, who was recognized in the awards ceremony as the organization’s Offensive Player of the Year, got a perfect view of Gonzalez’s nasty stuff from his position in center field.

“He's got electric stuff on the mound. He's fun to play behind. He fills up the zone, throws a lot of strikes,” said Anthony. “His stuff plays really well. From center field, I get to view it from right behind him, and to see him just face all these hitters. It’s exciting stuff.”

While the Red Sox have developed a plethora of impactful position players in recent years, the hope is that the pitching is starting to catch up. Brayan Bello has looked like an upper-echelon starter for much of his first full season in the Majors. Kutter Crawford has taken another leap forward. Tanner Houck is pitching key innings for a third straight season.

In particular, Bello is someone who Gonzalez looks up to, given that both men are graduates of the team’s Dominican Academy.

When Gonzalez finished his media availability in Boston’s dugout, Bello jokingly started making faces at him as he walked toward the clubhouse. Then the two men met in front of the tunnel and embraced.

Brayan Bello (left) and Wikelman Gonzalez (right)

“I have a great relationship with Brayan. I always try to watch his outings,” said Gonzalez. “I’ve spent a lot of time with him talking. And for me to have somebody coming from the Academy all the way here, it gives me extra motivation, because I know that I can do the same. That makes me keep going and keep getting better and want to keep grinding.”

Gonzalez leads with a fastball that tops out at 97 mph. His other weapons? A curveball with a big break, and a slider and changeup that he is trying to improve command of.

“He has four pitches,” said Red Sox director of player development Brian Abraham. “He throws all four pitches for strikes, he gets swings and misses with all of those pitches. And to me, that's a recipe for success at the upper levels.”