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Tomase: Only thing Bello proved is that he's not Pedro

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Brayan Bello

Brayan Bello let the moment get the best of him. There's no shame in that. What matters more is how he responds.

Making his big league debut on Wednesday night vs. the Tampa Bay Rays, Bello came out amped up and never quite harnessed that energy. He allowed four runs on six hits in four innings, striking out two and walking three.

Working quickly, perhaps to the point of rushing, Bello had little feel for his slider and frequently overthrew his changeup. His sinker reached 98 mph and has the makings of an elite weapon, but the few times he mis-located it, the Rays pounced, proving that there's a canyon between the capabilities of Triple-A hitters and big leaguers.

How Chris Sale fared in rehab start for Triple-A Worcester

Maybe now we can table the Pedro Martinez comparisons and just let Bello continue his development as a talented arm with a lot of room to grow, and even more to learn.

"If it's three innings and five runs, it doesn't mean he's going to fail at this level," manager Alex Cora said before the game. "Or if he goes seven innings, no runs, it doesn't mean he's going to be a Hall of Famer. It just means that he's a big leaguer."

While it's true that Bello's the most exciting pitching prospect the Red Sox have developed since Clay Buchholz, it never made sense to put him in this exalted class of can't-miss phenoms. His mentor Martinez, for example, had already spent four years in the big leagues and won 35 games by age 23. The aforementioned Buchholz posted a 2.44 ERA in his final full minor league season while striking out 171 in 125.1 innings, back when that was still impressive. He reached the big leagues at age 22 and promptly threw a no-hitter.

 

Bello is good, and he may one day play a prominent role in the Red Sox rotation, but he's not so good that he could jump from Double-A to the big leagues in the span of four months and dominate. The Rays made that clear by tattooing pitches he probably got away with at Triple-A Worcester, and by eliminating ones that were good for swings and misses in the minors, too.

Tampa swung at 33 pitches and only missed six times. Bello lacked command, falling behind 11 of the 21 hitters he faced. For all of the considerable movement on his sinker, too many times it was a ball from the second it left his hand. His stuff plays in the strike zone, but he doesn't exactly paint.

Trouble started right away when Yandy Diaz ripped a hanging slider off the left field wall for a double with one out in the first. Wander Franco then lined a sinker up the middle to give the Rays a 1-0 lead.

For now, he looks like a one-and-done. That doesn't mean he's a failure. It just means he's not Pedro or Clayton Kershaw or Stephen Strasburg. Success will take work.

John Tomase on Brayan Bello

Bello induced a chopper by Ji-Man Choi, but Trevor Story had no play at second and Franchy Cordero dropped his relay to first. Bello then showed some of the competitiveness that was his hallmark in the minors, springing off the mound to field Randy Arozarena's comebacker and firing a seed to second to start the inning-ending 1-4-3 double play.

Maybe the most impressive aspect of Bello's outing was his athleticism. He's quick and decisive off the mound, and for someone who induced so much weak contact at Triple-A, that skill should serve him well.

Of course, no one tuned in to watch him field. Red Sox fans were hoping to see him force his way into the rotation. Instead, with Michael Wacha expected to return on Friday and left-hander Chris Sale probably joining him next week, Bello will probably make his next start back at Triple-A.

That's OK. Bello dominated High-A last year (5-0, 2.27) to earn a promotion to Double-A. He went 2-3 with a 4.66 ERA at Portland and didn't even earn a decision until his ninth start. He learned from that experience, however, and opened this season by going 4-2 with a 1.60 ERA, forcing his way up to Worcester, where a string of 10-strikeout games made him a viable option for this turn through the rotation.

For now, he looks like a one-and-done. That doesn't mean he's a failure. It just means he's not Pedro or Clayton Kershaw or Stephen Strasburg. Success will take work.