Whenever a flashy rookie caused members of a press corps to take notice, NFL coaching legend Bill Parcells had a standard answer.
“Don’t put him in Canton,” he’d say.
Or in this case, don’t put Brayan Bello in Cooperstown.
The much-hyped 23-year-old righthander will have better days than he did in his major league debut against the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night.
How could he not? Bello lasted four innings and allowed four runs on six hits and three walks in a 7-1 loss.
Bello blessed himself as he popped out of the dugout before the first inning then looked up to the blue sky with his new blue Sox cap over his heart.
After a superstitious hop over the base line, he ran to the mound for a few warm-up tosses to Christian Vázquez and retired Josh Lowe on two pitches. The crowd of 33,735 at Fenway applauded, appreciating the moment and the ball was rolled into the dugout for safekeeping.
But Bello was no Billy Rohr. Yandy Diaz hammered a hanging slider off the wall and Wander Franco followed with an RBI single. It was the beginning of a stretch that saw eight of 15 Rays reach base with four scoring.
Bello looked to the heavens again several times, this time in frustration. Welcome to the majors, young man.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Bello said via an interpreter. “Just trying to be a little too selective and that’s not who I am. I like to be aggressive.”
The talent was evident. Bello averaged 96.7 miles per hour with his sinker and the Rays didn’t square it up often. He’s athletic and repeats his delivery with ease.
The walks were a largely product of poor command, not an unwillingness to challenge hitters.
But Bello’s changeup and slider were hit hard and his 79 pitches generated only six swings and misses. The first didn’t come until his 21st pitch.
Bello wanted to work at a better tempo, but the Rays disrupted his timing by stepping out or calling time. That’s an adjustment he’ll have to make.
All three runs Bello allowed in the third inning came with two outs. Had he been able to put Ji-Man Choi away with a 2-and-2 changeup, the inning would have been over.
But Choi took it the other way for a single to extend the inning and Randy Arozarena followed with a two-run double.
“They’re not the same hitters that you face down there in Triple A,” Bello said.
Somebody should tell Bello that Roger Clemens allowed five runs on 11 hits over 5⅔ innings in his debut against Cleveland in 1984.
Jon Lester’s debut in 2006 was a loss, too. He gave up three runs on five hits and four walks over 4⅓ innings against Texas.
Sox manager Alex Cora has been around enough can’t-miss rookies to know they often do miss at first and need a little time to figure it out.
“You can see it, the stuff,” Cora said. “He needs to keep getting better and work on a few things … We still love the kid.”
Confidence plays a role in how a young pitcher learns from his mistakes and those who know Bello best say that’s not a problem.
“He understands who he is as a pitcher,” Sox player development director Brian Abraham said. “When he’s on the mound that’s where he feels the most comfortable. The really good ones usually have that.”
Cora told a story that illustrated that. After Bello was reassigned to minor league camp in spring training, he kept coming back to the major league side of the complex to get breakfast.
The point was not to get better food. It was to make a quiet statement that he belonged on the team.
“He gets it,” Cora said.
The debut of a prized prospect is a big day for any organization because so many people play a role in making it happen.
Bello was signed in 2017 in the Dominican Republic and has since played in the Dominican Summer League, Single A Greenville, Double A Portland and Triple A Worcester.
Add up all the scouts, coaches, athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches and roving instructors who influenced his development along the way and it’s dozens of people.
“To me Brayan is a good example of how the whole organization played its part,” Abraham said.
The organization didn’t have much to celebrate on Wednesday. For now, Bello is 0-1 with a 9.00 earned run average.
But that will change. The Sox are long overdue to produce a homegrown starting pitcher and Bello has all the qualities to end that drought.