Mata's future uncertain as Red Sox righty rehabs with Sea Dogs

May 23—It had been almost two years since Bryan Mata last pitched for the Sea Dogs. The hard-throwing righty was on the Hadlock Field mound Thursday in what he hopes is a short return trip to Portland.

Mata, 25, made his third rehab start as he works his way back from a hamstring injury suffered in spring training. Through translator Justin Frometa, Portland's development coach, Mata said he feels good mentally and physically and expects to start for the Sea Dogs next week in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

After that, because of Major League Baseball's roster rules, Mata could find himself on the Boston Red Sox roster or in a position to sign with another organization.

"I want to do whatever I can to help the big league club win. That's what I'm here for, whether they need me to start, to close, if they need me to play catch, I'll do that," Mata said. "Anything it takes to be up there and help that big league club win."

On Boston's 40-man roster since 2020, Mata is out of minor league options and would need to clear waivers if not added to the 26-man roster when his 30-day rehab stint ends June 11. If Mata is not promoted to the Red Sox by June 12, the club would have to designate him for assignment. If unclaimed by another big league club, Boston could send Mata to the minor leagues, likely Triple-A Worcester.

Mata has yet to make his major league debut.

In Thursday's matinee against the Hartford Yard Goats — a 10-1 Hartford victory — Mata made the longest of his three rehab starts. He went three innings, allowing three runs on five hits — including two bunt singles in the first inning. He struck out two and walked none.

Mata, of Maracay, Venezuela, has been clocked throwing 100 miles per hour in his career. He consistently reached the mid-90s on Thursday, topping out at 98.

"Right now, I feel like all my pitches are in a pretty good place," he said. "Previously, I had some issues with my changeup, but right now I've been throwing it a ton and having really good results, so I'm really comfortable."

Mata threw 45 pitches — 19 more than his start Saturday for High-A Greenville — with 31 going for strikes. All three runs he allowed came after he got two quick outs to open the third inning. Adael Amador singled, then Mata hit Braiden Ward with a pitch. Ryan Ritter singled to drive in Hartford's first run, then Yanquiel Fernandez singled to score two runs.

"In that third inning, I think I got a little too comfortable. I lost a little bit of focus," Mata said. "If you think back to it, the contact was pretty weak, regardless. I felt really good."

Once one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox system, Mata's progress has been slowed by injuries. Now ranked as Boston's No. 27 prospect by MLB Pipeline and No. 39 by, Mata is looking to live up to the promise he showed from 2017 to 2019, when he worked his way from the low minor leagues to the Sea Dogs.

Mata had Tommy John surgery in April 2021 to repair his right elbow. He returned to Portland in June 2022, posting a 1.85 earned-run average in 10 games, including nine starts. He also struck out 58 in 48 2/3 innings and earned him a late-season promotion to Worcester, where he was 2-0 with a 3.47 ERA in five starts.

A strain to his right teres major, the muscle that connects the scapula to the upper arm, kept Mata out for most of 2023. He pitched just 27 innings for Worcester last season.

"Obviously, the last three years have been pretty tough," he said. "I just try to take care of what I can. Be present, be where my feet are, control the things that I can control, and stay positive throughout all the adversity. If you work really hard, what you deserve will come. Whether it's early or late, it will come at some point in time. God's plan is perfect, so I just trust the plan."

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