The Red Sox might want a do-over.
While Fightin’ Joe Kelly earned the headlines for emptying the benches in the Dodgers‘ 5-2 victory over the Astros on Tuesday, Graterol made an impression of his own that should have Red Sox fans wincing.
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The 21-year-old right-hander made his league-leading third appearance in a perfect fifth inning, striking out two and earning the win. He topped 100 mph with six pitches (per Baseball Savant), didn’t throw any of his 13 fastballs below 98 mph, and when he needed to offer a change of pace, deployed five 87-89 mph sliders, all strikes.
Making Graterol’s stuff even more impressive is the movement. His 100-mph fastball is technically classified as a sinker, with considerable arm-side run. Guys like Kelly and Nathan Eovaldi throw 100 mph that’s pretty straight. Graterol’s 100 looks like it’s controlled by a joystick.
So why isn’t he in pitching-starved Boston? The Red Sox didn’t like his medicals. Graterol underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in 2016 and sat out the next 15 months. A shoulder impingement sidelined him for two months last year, and when the Red Sox got a look at his imaging, they decided he’d be physically limited to a relief role, decreasing the value of the prospective starter they thought they were acquiring.
They ended up reworking the deal with the Dodgers, who took Graterol from Minnesota and instead sent infielder Jeter Downs and catcher Connor Wong to Boston.
Now the Red Sox are desperate for arms, let alone ones as dynamic as Graterol. They fell to 1-4 after allowing at least seven runs for the fourth straight game in Tuesday’s 8-3 loss to the Mets. They’re using two openers, as well as two mediocre starters in Martin Perez and Ryan Weber. Beyond Eovaldi, the entire starting staff lacks high-end stuff.
Graterol might’ve changed that, but the Red Sox believed he was at high risk of suffering a significant arm injury. They may be right, but for now they can only wonder if they should’ve just stuck to their original deal.
(If you can bear to watch, here are Graterol’s highlights. Ignore the description in the tweet – he threw 18 pitches, not 12, and the TV gun rounded up on a number of 99+ mph fastballs, per Baseball Savant.