Stability and depth of the starting rotation for the Boston Red Sox were big talking points entering the 2023 season. Both were — and still are — going to ultimately be deciding factors in the team’s success or failure this season.
One quarter through the regular season, depth has been an asset. The stability, as provided by a mix of veterans, youth, and those recovering from injury, has been a mixed bag of results.
Chris Sale, who notched eight innings and struck out nine in his most recent start, provided another strong encouraging sign on the veterans side of things. And blazing a trail for the youth movement is Brayan Bello, who is tapping into the homegrown talent fans have been waiting for.
Boston Red Sox: Bello rising
Inauspicious in a 2023 debut against the Angels, one might have feared Bello was launching himself into a season similar to that of 2022.
Snap judgements burst forth and expectations of making the leap in ’23 were too grand of ones to for Bello to aspire to. Bello lasted only 2.2 innings, allowing eight hits and five earned runs while striking out five.
Bello has settled down in five starts since the ’23 debut, tossing 25.2 innings and allowing only nine earned runs.
The most recent was the third start of May. It wasn’t Bello’s best, battling control issues and walking five. Still, he lasted five innings and allowed only three hits and one run while striking out seven.
Bello has a 2.81 ERA in May, winning all three starts. In the victory over the Seattle Mariners, Bello also had his first start of the season in which he didn’t allow a home run.
He’d allowed one in each of his previous five starts. Bello is 3-1 with 4.45 ERA and, while pitching well, has only the benefactor of the Boston Red Sox scoring 52 runs in Bello’s six starts.
Bello is mixing his pitches well and, for the most part, finding his spots. Thrown to the fire in 2022 and posting a 2-8 record with a 4.71 ERA, Bello has used that his advantage so far in ’23. In doing so, Bello has slotted himself into the upper echelon of the Red Sox rotation.
Rotation shaping up for Boston Red Sox
Bello has been on a nice run. Along with other pitchers getting healthy, and others showing who they truly are, the starting rotation is rounding into focus. Control issues from the Seattle game aside, Bello has been delivering. And will be even better if he can consistently stretch out outings into the sixth inning and beyond.
Sale (3-2, 5.40 ERA) has found his footing in May as well, providing a nice 1-2 punch along with Bello. In Sale’s last three starts (two in May, one in April), he’s struck out 24 in 20.1 innings. Showing control, Sale has allowed only 13 hits and 5 earned runs in these starts.
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James Paxton has quickly endeared himself to the legion of Red Sox fans. And by quickly, a long-awaited debut in his return from Tommy John surgery and accompanying injuries while in rehab.
In two starts, Paxton has looked every bit his former self. The lefty has tossed 11 innings, striking out 14 while allowing only three runs. Paxton, leading the Red Sox to a 6-1 victory over the San Diego Padres on Friday, picked up his first win since 2020.
The rest of the rotation is shaping up. Nick Pivetta has been moved to the bullpen and one wonders where the next move for Corey Kluber might be, once Garrett Whitlock returns. The back end of the rotation looks to belong to Tanner Houck and Whitlock, if all goes well.
Houck is on the verge of unlocking something spectacular, if he can get over the “one bad inning” hump. It’s something that’s plagued Houck all season. Early, Boston was giving him run support. But during his last four starts, Houck has seen little of that. In one Red Sox victory of a Houck start, the team scored seven (he allowed six). The other three starts, all losses, Houck allowed ten earned runs and the Red Sox scored only four.
Houck has slipped to the back end of the rotation here in May while Bello is morphing into a frontline starter. Backed by an offense that score in bunches, Bello can work with easy efficiency, making him all the better in laying the foundation for the Boston Red Sox ace of the future.