The Red Sox announced on Monday that left-hander Brennan Bernardino has been recalled from Triple-A, with right-hander Brayan Bello optioned in a corresponding move.
The Sox started the season short-handed in the rotation, as all of Bello, Garrett Whitlock and James Paxton started the season on the injured list. That allowed Tanner Houck, who has worked as both a starter and a reliever in recent years, to get a rotation spot out of the gate. Bello and Whitlock returned from the IL recently, giving the club a difficult decision to make since Houck had gotten off to a decent start. Through four outings, he has struck out 25.6% of batters faced while walking 9.3% and getting ground balls on 58.9% of balls in play. Despite those strong peripherals, his 4.29 ERA is fairly average thanks to a 20% HR/FB rate.
Though that’s not exactly ace-level work, he’s still been arguably the club’s best starter this year. Chris Sale has an ERA of 8.00, Corey Kluber is at 8.50, Nick Pivetta at 4.58 and Whitlock at 6.19. Bello has only made two starts but is at 9.82. Although Houck has frequently moved from the rotation to the bullpen and back, it would have been difficult to bump him right now when he’s arguably been the club’s best starter this year. The club has been running out a six-man rotation recently but has multiple off-days coming up on the schedule, which would make it challenging to continue that. Today’s move provides a bit of clarity on the path forward, allowing Houck to hold that rotation spot for now and see if he can stretch his results over a larger sample.
As for Bello, he hasn’t got out to a great start this year, getting shut down in spring with forearm tightness and missing the beginning of the season. He returned recently but allowed eight earned runs over 7 1/3 innings in his first two starts. He’ll head down to Worcester to try to get into a groove again after the bumpy start to the campaign. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back up in short order, as he posted a 2.34 WRA in the minors last year and was a fixture of top prospect lists before graduating last year.
Even if Bello succeeds in Worcester, there might be some crowding in the Boston rotation with Sale, Kluber, Pivetta, Whitlock and Houck having the five spots for now. In addition to that, Paxton is rehabbing in the minors, though his last outing was a disaster. He tossed 43 pitches while recording only two outs and allowed seven earned runs.