The Brayan Bello show is set to resume, and his Red Sox teammates can't wait

Tomase: Brayan Bello's return can't come soon enough for Red Sox originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Brayan Bello hails from the same part of the Dominican Republic as Rafael Devers -- Samaná, a mountainous, peninsular province in the northeast corner of the Dominican Republic.

The region has produced no shortage of big leaguers, from former Red Sox slugger Hanley Ramirez, to demonstrative Rays closer Fernando Rodney, to Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura, an emerging star who tragically died in a 2017 car crash.

Players from this part of the country aren't afraid to display their confidence, and to Devers, the reason is simple.

"Tough," he said. "We're tough."

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Red Sox fans already know what Devers is capable of, because he's been doing it for six years. They're less sure of Bello, a 23-year-old right-hander with electric stuff who may very well make his 2023 debut vs. Shohei Ohtani on Marathon Monday.

Bello embodies the best traits of his home. He may only stand a slight 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds, but he's fearless. Unassuming off the mound, he's supremely convicted on it. And if he strikes you out, he's going to let you know it.

One of the joys of watching Bello, in fact, is his demeanor. He struts after strikeouts, gives side eyes when he gets squeezed, and makes the mound his own.

It's enough for teammates to close their eyes and see another skinny Dominican right-hander who once wore Red Sox colors: Pedro Martinez.

"I keep telling him, wait until you see this guy pitch," said Red Sox shortstop Kiké Hernández, turning to new teammate Justin Turner. "Obviously being from the Dominican, and the size he is, and the velocity he has and the nasty changeup, I'm not saying he's Pedro, but there's a lot of Pedro in him."

As the Red Sox prepare for Bello to rejoin the rotation after forearm pain shut down one of his first workouts of spring training, the organization hopes we're looking at the birth of its first homegrown top-of-the-rotation starter since Jon Lester.

"He understands who he is and what he's good at," said pitching coach Dave Bush. "Some guys need more success to build that confidence, other guys come in with it. He's a case where he came in and he knows he's going to be a good big leaguer. That will take him a long way."

It should be no surprise that Bello takes the mound with an eff-you attitude, because he modeled his game after Martinez. Assistant GM Eddie Romero remembers seeing Bello as a teenager, and all the hallmarks of his mound presence existed then, too.

He actually went unsigned for two years because he was so slight, finally inking with the Red Sox at age 18 for a modest $ 28,000 bonus in 2017. But even then, he carried himself like a future big leaguer.

"He wasn't afraid to show how confident he was," Romero said. "He had that strut during tryouts at the Red Sox complex, or if there was a bad call, that little look. That's part of his competitive nature. Him emulating Pedro, that plays to his advantage, that's natural him. That's not something we want to change."

Bello's stuff is jaw-dropping. He throws 98 mph sinkers and disappearing changeups, with a slider that came along towards the end of last year, too. Each of his offerings plays in the strike zone.

After a rough introduction to the big leagues last July -- he failed to reach the fifth inning in any of his first three starts before briefly being shuttled to the bullpen and then the injured list -- everything clicked in September.

Bello posted a 2.59 ERA over his last six starts, becoming a favorite of the popular Pitching Ninja Twitter account for not just his nasty stuff, but his exuberance and showmanship.

Bello turns his back on vanquished hitters, pounds his chest, takes a stroll behind the mound. It's easy to envision his starts becoming appointment viewing.

"You have to have fun," he said via translator Daveson Perez. "When the hitter takes you deep, they celebrate, and I feel the same way. If I strike somebody out, I celebrate, too. I've just always been that way -- confident and wanting to have fun out there.

"If you don't have confidence, you're not going to throw strikes, you're not going to be in control. Whenever I'm on the mound, I feel like I'm the best player with the ball in my hand and I have to be that way."

Veteran teammates embrace it.

"From the first second I've seen him pitch live, I've loved every second of it," said left-hander Chris Sale. "He does it in a confident way, not in an arrogant way. He's not pulling up in seven Ferraris, he's not calling people out and acting like an idiot. With his stuff, we're talking about just electricity coming through there."

Hernández agrees.

"I think besides the stuff, what stood out to me the most was his demeanor on the mound," he said. "You could tell this guy was not scared of anybody or anything at the plate. He's a very special talent that I'm glad to have on our side."

Bello made his second and final rehab start on Tuesday at Triple-A Worcester, scattering four hits over six one-run innings before telling Jesus Quiñonez of Telemundo that he's ready to go.

Maybe he was born ready. Bello grinned from ear to ear at the mention of Rodney before leaning back to mimic the former closer's famous bow-and-arrow celebration. The way Devers sees it, there's a little Samaná in all of them.

"That's just how we go about things," he said. "We're from the same part of the Dominican, and you have to have that confidence, because if you don't, how are you going to go out there and do what you do best? At the end of the day, you have to have it to be where he is."