Brayan Bello's Opening Day start revealed encouraging changes for Red Sox

Boston Red Sox v Seattle Mariners
Boston Red Sox v Seattle Mariners / Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/GettyImages

Opening Day usually provides a look at each team’s No. 1 starting pitcher, provided that they’re healthy and available. The Opening Day starter represents who a team’s ace is in the present day, and hopefully — for the team and fans’ sake — for the rest of the season and beyond. 

Brayan Bello’s outing in Seattle should put Red Sox Nation at ease. He’s dealt early in his career, and he showed he can deal often throughout his career. His arsenal makes him well-equipped to do so.

Bello has as good of a turbo sinker as there is amongst starting pitchers, a changeup that can disappear, and a new bullet slider that relies on depth rather than sweep.

Bello’s bread and butter is seamlessly blending his sinker and changeup down in the zone so hitters can’t easily tell which is which. There’s an eight miles per hour velocity gap between the two pitches and both Bello’s sinker and changeup move in a way where they can tumble down hard below hitters' bats, run away from lefties, and bite hard onto righties' hands. 

The two pitches have similar movements but are used differently. As of now, his sinker is more ball-to-strike and his changeup is more strike-to-ball. The sinker only generated one whiff in his first start, but it collected nine called strikes. The changeup didn’t record a single called strike on Opening Day. 

The upper 86-91 mph bullet slider kept hitters honest in Bello's five innings pitched. He ditched his cutter, but added depth and velocity to this new slider. Bello still doesn’t seem fully comfortable locating it, as he threw a handful of elevated sliders both to the middle and above the zone. Regardless, there was a lot to like. 

Red Sox's Brayan Bello out-dueled Luis Castillo on Opening Day, but can learn from him

Using the eye test, it's clear that Bello’s stuff rivals that of Mariners ace Luis Castillo. Their sinkers, sliders, and changeups all have eerily similar velocity and movement profiles. It was just Bello's first start of the year, but it was reassuring to watch Bello produce more positive results given the age and notoriety gap between the two.

Bello’s sinker had just a little more velocity than Castillo’s — Bello hit 98 mph three times and sat 96 mph. Bello’s sinker also had a smidge more arm-side run, AND it had more depth than Castillo’s by a respectable amount. The ONLY problem with Bello’s sinker… it doesn't play up in the zone! 

The biggest difference between Bello's and Castillo's pitching styles is Castillo has no fear of consistently challenging hitters above their hands with his four-seam fastball. Bello ditched the four-seamer altogether, so he has yet to show either the stuff (four-seam fastball with even average ride) or location needed to pitch up in the zone. 

By simply throwing an elevated four-seamer can Bello record more called strikes, whiffs, and strikeouts with his usual arsenal of pitches. He flashed all the signs of an ace, yet there’s so much more for him to unlock. 

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