Righthander Bryan Mata is on the move.
Nearly 16 months removed from Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox prospect has left Fort Myers, Fla., to start a rehab assignment with Single A Salem. This represents the beginning of an anticipated ascent back through the system that should bring Mata to Triple A Worcester — or perhaps even the big leagues — by season’s end.
Mata, 23, pitched in three extended spring training games. He showed elite velocity in his first outing in Fort Myers, topping out at 101 m.p.h. in two innings, before working at “just” 99 in his second outing and 98 in his third.
In 2019, Mata went 7-7 with a 3.43 ERA with 111 strikeouts and 42 walks in 105 innings between Salem and Double A Portland. He showed overpowering stuff at the Alt Site in 2020 (when the minor league season was canceled) and seemed like a candidate to help in the big leagues at some point in 2021. Instead, he tore his ulnar collateral ligament in spring training, requiring surgery and a lengthy rehab.
Now that he’s progressed to where he’s ready to start competing in official games again. Mata could start for Salem as soon as this weekend.