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Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata throws two hitless innings in first appearance in almost three years

Red Sox pitching prospect Bryan Mata, pictured here in spring training in 2021, returned to the mound Saturday for his first official game since 2019.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

In his first official minor league game since 2019, Red Sox prospect Bryan Mata topped out at 99 miles per hour over a pair of hitless innings for Single-A Salem on Saturday. He struck out two, walked two, and got 10 swings-and-misses (five on fastballs, three on sliders, and two on curveballs) while allowing one unearned run in his outing.

Mata had last pitched in a minor league game with Double-A Portland on August 31, 2019. With the 2020 minor league season canceled because of the pandemic, Mata spent that summer at the Red Sox’ alternate site in Pawtucket, showing the best pure stuff of any pitcher in the Red Sox system.

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But while he looked like a candidate to open 2021 in Triple-A with a chance to reach the big leagues by the end of the year, Mata tore his ulnar collateral ligament in spring training and underwent Tommy John surgery in April 2021.

Now roughly 14 months removed from the procedure, Mata has topped out between 98 and 101 m.p.h in extended spring training with Salem. His pitch-mix — built around an East-West mix of a high-90s sinker and slider, but also featuring a four-seam fastball, curveball, and changeup that allows him to work up and down — can be electric when he’s able to stay in the strike zone.

Mata will now get regular work in the rotation as he continues his rehab across levels of the Red Sox system. Mata will now move up to High-A Greenville for his next rehab start this week.

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Super-utility standout Ceddanne Rafaela has been promoted from High-A Greenville to Double-A Portland. Rafaela hit .330/.368/.589 with nine homers and 29 extra-base hits in 45 games, stole 14 bases in 16 attempts, and played stellar defense in both centerfield and at shortstop. Rafaela has emerged from obscurity to become a player with a high likelihood of a big league future.

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Alex Speier can be reached at alex.speier@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @alexspeier.