Bello breaks through, cruises to first big league 'W'

September 4th, 2022

BOSTON -- It took eight weeks and eight appearances, but it finally happened for on Saturday afternoon at Fenway Park.

At the end of the day, Bello at last had his first Major League win.

It came on the strength of his best outing by innings (six) and runs allowed (zero), and on a day the Red Sox defeated the Rangers, 5-3.

“I feel very happy, and that shows all the hard work that I’ve done in between starts since I first came in here to the big league team, and I’m really happy with the result,” said Bello, who is rated Boston’s No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline.

The truth of the matter is that Bello had pitched well enough to win on other occasions, particularly when he held the Blue Jays to two runs while striking out seven on Aug. 24. He also had a strong relief outing against Milwaukee on July 29.

It all came together for Bello on Saturday as he walked one, struck out five and threw 60 of his 88 pitches for strikes.

“He’s been throwing really well for a while,” said Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts. “It’s just that he started off his career by giving up infield knocks, and a couple of bloopers here and there with guys on base. He got off to a lot of bad luck, I would say. He’s been pitching dominant for a while now.”

While it isn’t uncommon for a 23-year-old pitcher to get down on himself even when bad luck plays a bigger factor than bad pitches, Bello’s confidence never seemed to waver. And make no mistake about it: He has a lot of it.

“I saw it from the first time he was in the clubhouse. His first start, with that white bandana, that thing he had going on his head,” said Bogaerts. “He was looking good. The way he was in here, it was like this guy had 20 starts up here already. I don’t know, man. There’s something different about him.”

While falling out of realistic contention for a postseason berth isn’t what the Red Sox had in mind, one of the benefits has been the chance to get a good look at Bello, who will continue to pitch every fifth day for the rest of the season.

Bello has the chance to convince the brass that he belongs in the rotation at the start of the 2023 season.

“Yeah, that’s the mentality that I have,” said Bello. “To keep working hard. But my focus right now is to finish the season strong, and we’ll see what happens.”

In particular, Red Sox manager Alex Cora enjoyed watching Bello empty the tank in his final inning, getting a 1-2-3 frame against the Rangers’ second through fourth hitters on 15 pitches.

Bello’s final pitch was an 84.8 mph slider that was lined to Rafael Devers at third base to end the sixth.

As Bello got back to the dugout, his manager, coaches and teammates were there to congratulate him.

The ups and downs Bello has gone through the last few weeks have been felt by everyone around him.

“I believe as far as executing the game plan, that was his best,” said Cora. “He was able to use his front-door sinker to lefties, and just from the guy that threw sinkers and changeups the first outing against Tampa Bay to this guy, you see it, and we’re very proud of him.

“There’s a lot of people working with him, a lot of people celebrating down there with him because everybody -- Michael [Wacha], Nate [Eovaldi], Rich [Hill] -- they talk to him and he likes to listen to them and is not afraid to make changes in between starts or during starts. That’s a testament to who he is, and we’re happy he got his first one.”

Perhaps the bumps Bello hit were necessary for him to reach the form he was at on Saturday.

“He got punched right away, which is good and bad,” said Cora. “Bad for the results, but good in a sense that every level is different. You guys know how I feel about this level. The strike zone is smaller and the chase percentage is less, so you have to throw over the plate, but he can do it with that stuff.”

Bello had the best proof yet on Saturday.

“I felt very good with all my pitches, everything was working,” Bello said. “Fastball, changeup, slider, my sinker, too. I was trying to attack the hitters and throw all the pitches for strikes, and you see the results right there.”