Baseball lingo did not dig deep when searching for a term to describe a pitcher's raw ability. Is his fastball fast? Does his breaking ball break hard? He's got "stuff." Class A Greenville pitching coach Bob Kipper has heard enough of it, even if it's an apt way of labeling
Baseball lingo did not dig deep when searching for a term to describe a pitcher's raw ability. Is his fastball fast? Does his breaking ball break hard? He's got "stuff." Class A Greenville pitching coach Bob Kipper has heard enough of it, even if it's an apt way of labeling the contents of Brayan Bello's arsenal.
"I really feel that we kind of throw the word 'stuff' around like you hand out Halloween candy on October 31," Kipper said. "The guy has stuff. He throws mid-90s every time he steps on the mound."
So if Bello arrived at Whitaker Bank Ballpark this weekend with a 7.49 ERA, it can't be stuff that produces results. Execution, Kipper said, does. And his right-hander had never executed in a Minor League game as well as he did when the Drive outlasted Lexington, 6-2, in 10 innings on Saturday night.
Bello, the No. 23 Red Sox prospect, fanned a career-high 13 over six scoreless innings. He scattered five hits and did not walk a batter, throwing 69 of 92 pitches for strikes and inducing 27 swings and misses.
When Bello has struggled -- he's allowed seven or more earned runs four times this season -- it's his execution that has faltered, Kipper said. It's obvious, but it's also true. In his worst games, the 20-year-old's slider is flat. His fastball misses spots. Counts benefit hitters and the rest snowballs.
Part of it is inexperience. The native of the Dominican Republic had thrown three innings on U.S. soil prior to this year. But he appeared polished against Lexington. His fastball topped out at 95 mph. His changeup, which Kipper said had "tremendous deception," sat around 87. It had a late fade and hitters repeatedly swung over it.
"It's not the first time we've seen him have a really good changeup, but tonight it was special," the pitching coach said. "And it was repeatable. And that's the one thing that really separated tonight's outing from a lot of his other outings, is repeatability. His ability to produce that quality pitch -- whether it was a changeup, slider or fastball -- many times."
The first signs of that appeared in the second inning when Bello struck out the side on 11 pitches. The last two batters in that frame -- Reed Rohlman and Chase Vallot -- fanned on three pitches. When an error by shortstop Grant Williams and a first-pitch single by Rubendy Jaquez put two runners on in the third, Bello got out of it with -- what else -- another strikeout, his sixth.
Gameday box score
The punchouts did not stop. Bello bookended the fourth with two more. All three Legends to bat in the fifth loaded the count, all three struck out. The last two, Jackson Lueck and John Rave, went down looking.
Bello encountered some trouble in the sixth when Jaquez and Nathan Eaton singled to start the inning. A groundout advanced the runners, but Eric Cole could not drive them in as he swung and missed at three straight pitches. Greenville had help warming in the bullpen, but the inning's second mound visit ended with Bello still on the mound. Rohlman, too, swung and missed at three straight pitches.
"It was really fun to watch," Kipper said -- twice.
The impressive showing recalled Bello's April, during which he posted a 1.89 ERA in four starts. But this was different; he didn't pitch into the sixth inning once and the most he'd struck out in any game this season was eight. His previous career high was 11, recorded last August in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League.
"Anytime you see something like this, you do say to yourself, 'Is this a glimpse of what he could potentially look like?'" Kipper said. " ... Not that we expect this guy to go out and punch out 13 every time he steps on the mound, But there is a potential to go out there and absolutely control an opposing lineup and control a baseball game with what he brings to the table."
Left-hander Yoan Aybar got through the seventh without allowing a run but walked two in the eighth before being pulled in favor of Logan Browning (4-1), who allowed an RBI single to Freddy Fermin. The southpaw got out of the inning but blew the save in the ninth, and the game went to extra innings tied at 2-2.
The Drive repaired the damage in the 10th. Tyler Dearden drew a bases-loaded walk, Everlouis Lozada lifted a sacrifice fly, Grant Williams bunted for an RBI single and Cole Brannen capped the rally with another run-scoring knock.
Left-hander Alex Demchak sealed the win by tossing a scoreless 10th.
Joe Bloss is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jtbloss.