Red Sox News: What left-handed pitcher Kyle Hart brings to rotation

Red Sox pitching prospect Kyle Hart. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
Red Sox pitching prospect Kyle Hart. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /

Lefty Kyle Hart joins the Boston Red Sox starting rotation.

Kyle Hart is the next unproven option to try to claim a spot in the undermanned Boston Red Sox starting rotation.

Hart will make his major league debut when he starts Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. at Fenway Park and the rookie will oppose Rays flame-thrower Tyler Glasnow.

The left-handed pitcher is far from being a highly-touted prospect. He isn’t even ranked among the top 30 prospects in the thin Red Sox farm system. This is not a future ace who is ready to emerge but that’s not what Boston needs him to be. This rotation desperately needs a viable fourth option capable of keeping his team in the game for more than a few innings. With most of the scraps that the Red Sox found in the bargain bin failing to pan out. it’s time to see what Hart can do.

The 27-year-old had Tommy John surgery in college, resulting in a five-year stay at Indiana University and a fall to the 19th round in the 2016 draft where the Red Sox selected him.

Hart owns a 3.13 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in four minor league seasons. He reached Triple-A last year, going 9-7 with a 3.86 ERA in 18 appearances (15 starts).

He doesn’t throw hard and has an underwhelming 7.8 K/9 in his minor league career but he can keep hitters off balance with a mixture of cutters, sliders and curveballs.

Control will be critical to Hart’s success. His career 3.1 BB/9 rate doesn’t raise any alarms but the uptick in free passes when he moved up from Double-A to Pawtucket last year is something to keep an eye on. He’s shown the ability to command both sides of the plate and hitting his spots is essential when he doesn’t have the velocity to routinely throw his fastball past big league hitters.

Hart has pitched in two simulated games at the Red Sox alternate training site in Pawtucket, retiring 34 of the 38 batters he faced over 11 scoreless innings. He struck out 11 while only walking one.

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We should be cautious of raising expectations based on a limited sample of exhibition appearances. The Ryan Weber hype that was building throughout spring training should have taught us that lesson.

What his success in Pawtucket tells us is that Hart is throwing the ball well and building confidence. That’s more than we can say for Boston’s alternative options to join the rotation.

The Red Sox rotation has struggled without their top two starters who both remain out for the season. Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Perez and Zack Godley have been adequate but Boston hasn’t had another viable option beyond that trio. Weber was a disaster in his three starts and trying to get by with the opener strategy to fill two rotation spots has forced the Red Sox to burn through their bullpen.

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Boston needs a fourth starter, if for nothing else to have someone to eat innings in order to save the bullpen from being overworked. Hart isn’t an exciting young prospect but his solid minor league track record suggests he can get the job done.