'I know I can do it:' No. 3 prospect Bello stepping up for Sox

July 30th, 2022

BOSTON -- It didn’t matter to top Red Sox pitching prospect Brayan Bello that manager Alex Cora decided to start Friday’s game with an opener in veteran lefty Austin Davis.

The way Bello looked at it, this was his night to pitch, even though it would be a bulk-innings role in relief. So he was out there warming up in the outfield like the starter he is at heart. And then he went into the bullpen and was heating up at the same time as Davis.

And once Bello did enter the contest, he at last pitched like he wanted to in his first three Major League outings, which were all starts.

Though Bello took the loss on a night the Red Sox were defeated, 4-1, by the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers, it was a winning effort. Consider that the 23-year-old came on with one out in the top of the third inning and didn’t allow a hit to the first 10 batters he faced.

“Yeah, I felt like tonight was my best outing with my pitches,” said Bello, Boston’s No. 3 prospect per MLB Pipeline. “Things were working in my favor. But I still want to improve on certain things. Just going to continue working on that.”

As for the change in roles, it was just temporary, and not based on Bello’s performance, according to Cora. Boston’s manager thought his game-plan would play out better given Milwaukee’s lineup with Davis on first, and then Bello. 

In Bello’s first three outings, he was the victim of one tough inning. There was the debut on July 6, when he gave up four runs on six hits over four innings against the Rays at Fenway. Five days later, he had the unenviable task of facing the same team again -- this time at Tropicana Field. In that one, Bello gave up five runs on seven hits in four innings.

Then came that steamy July 24 game against the blistering-hot Blue Jays when Bello gave up a five-spot in the top of the first. He was able to get back on his feet and finish the outing with three straight scoreless frames.

And perhaps that momentum carried into Friday, when Bello allowed four hits and two runs (one scored after he was taken out) over 4 1/3 innings while striking out four.

“It was mostly a case of just attacking hitters,” Bello said. “I went in there, knew I had to attack, attack, attack. That’s what I kept doing.”

It is always a little dicey having a prospect pitch in the Majors slightly before his projected arrival. But given how depleted Boston’s starting rotation is, there seemed to be little other choice. And if the club didn’t think Bello could handle a little adversity, they would have sent him back to Triple-A before Friday to let him regain his footing.

However, Bello’s confidence hasn’t wavered. At some point, when his development is complete, Bello looks forward to the ultimate reward of seeing how his four-pitch arsenal (sinker, four-seamer, slider and changeup) plays at the highest level every fifth day.

“I know I can do it,” Bello said. “It’s just a matter, before, I wasn’t as consistent in my previous outings. This one, we made the adjustments that needed to be made. Going out there and attacking the zone as much as I did today, I can build off of that and continue to work.”

It remains to be seen how many more shots Bello will get this season. Rich Hill is due back in the rotation early next week. Michael Wacha could be back not long after. There’s also that matter of the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline and what Boston’s roster will look like once it passes. If the club trades one of their veteran starting pitchers -- Nathan Eovaldi, Wacha and Hill are all free agents at the end of this season -- that could open up more chances for Bello.

While the immediate future of the hard-throwing righty from the Dominican Republic is uncertain, the Red Sox enjoyed watching him take a step forward against a top opponent.

“His stuff was really good,” said Cora. “I mean, to come into a game like that against a good lineup that, usually they don’t swing a lot, they’re very patient and he got a lot of swings from them, a lot of weak contact. It was good to see him compete that way. That was fun to see.”