Righthander Bryan Mata, one of the top Red Sox pitching prospects and a big league depth option, has landed on the sidelines again.
Mata left his start for Worcester Tuesday after throwing a 98 m.p.h four-seam fastball in the third inning. Red Sox farm director Brian Abraham said the problem was tightness in the right shoulder, something that is likely to lead to an injured list stint.
Mata, 24, had allowed six runs (four earned) on six hits while walking three and striking out five in 2⅓ innings. Despite the rough line, his sinker had been impressive, both in terms of its power (he touched 99 a handful of times) and his work with the pitch in the strike zone.
Mata has had difficulty staying on the mound throughout his professional career. He was limited by back issues early in his minor league career, then missed all of 2021 and the first half of 2022 because of Tommy John surgery. He has never pitched more than 105 innings in a season.
Though his numbers with Worcester this season are unimpressive — 0-3, 5.61, with more walks (27) than strikeouts (26) in 25⅔ innings over seven starts — Mata is a factor in the Red Sox’ big league pitching depth.
His power stuff suggests at least the ability to contribute out of the bullpen — perhaps as a multi-innings reliever — if his control will not permit him to stick in the rotation. That view, however, is contingent on health.
Whitlock getting closer
Garrett Whitlock (right ulnar neuritis) will throw a three-inning simulated game at Fenway Park Thursday. From there, Whitlock will get a rehab start that will likely take place next Tuesday. Manager Alex Cora is uncertain if Whitlock will need one or two rehab starts before joining the big league club.
Additionally, the Red Sox reinstated James Paxton from the 15-day injured list Wednesday. Righthander Zack Littell was designated for assignment as a result. Paxton will make his Sox debut in Friday’s series opener against the Cardinals after spending the start of the season on the IL with a hamstring strain. It will be the first time Paxton will pitch in a big league contest since April 6, 2021 while still with the Mariners.
Whitlock will return as a starter, putting some current jobs in jeopardy. Nick Pivetta seems as if he’s a prime candidate to exit the rotation. But even after Pivetta surrendered seven runs in just four innings against the Braves on Tuesday, ballooning his ERA to 6.23, the righthander didn’t seem keen on a potential shift to a bullpen role.
“I started for this team my whole entire career,” Pivetta said. “I’m going to continue to do that. And by the end of the year, I’m going to continue to do that into next year.”
Joely Rodriguez (oblique) threw a scoreless inning in back-to-back appearances for Portland on Tuesday and Wednesday. Sitting 90-92 miles per hour with good movement on his fastball, changeup, and slider, Rodriguez should join the team some time during their series against the Cardinals this weekend. … Wednesday was a scheduled off day for Rafael Devers, who has played in 36 of the Sox’ 38 games this season, but Devers pinch hit for Bobby Dalbec in the seventh inning of a 5-2 win. The team has an off day Thursday in addition to next Thursday before their West Coast trip, which will begin next Friday at Petco Park against the Padres.