The Red Sox prospect who is shooting up the charts

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A prospect that hasn’t made it above Double A by the age of 25 years old usually doesn’t elicit too much buzz.

But Eduard Bazardo has become the exception to the rule.

The right-handed pitcher was perhaps the most interesting storyline when the Red Sox’ newest 40-man roster additions were released. Sure, Jay Groome was noteworthy. And designating the guy (Ryan Weber) who was your No. 3 starter to begin 2020 for assignment was something.

But Bazardo’s name has jumped out of late.

The lesson learned in some ways is what steps forward could have been made during the pandemic. This much his clear: The Venezuelan native made the most of his time off.

According to those in the organization, the guy who was originally listed as 6-feet, 155 pounds used his time at the Red Sox’ Academy in the Dominican Republic to beef up. The result was a fastball that has crept up into the mid-90’s that is now complementing an elite curveball and slider which is accompanied with a well-above-average spin rate.

"It was basically like Groundhog Day with a group of roughly 15 kids (at the Academy)," said Red Sox assistant general manager Eddie Romero. "He really took it upon himself and dedicated himself to strengthening and conditioning. He put on about 10 pounds of muscle."

Romero added, "When we signed him he was probably 140 pounds, if that. There had been a couple of signing periods he had been passed over. But we saw a breaking ball that had some depth to it and we saw a really fast arm that was obviously going to be a late-bloomer physically. He had a long way to go from a physical standpoint, but he competed. We loved that from Day 1. This is a tip of the cap to the player development and strength and conditioning staff. It's also been neat to see our analytics group make some recommendations, how they have been able to optimize Bazardo from a physical standpoint and a stuff standpoint."

All of it was put on display at the team’s Instructional League, which caught the eye of those in Fort Myers.

The Red Sox prioritizing keeping Bazardo away from the Rule 5 Draft was certainly no lock heading into the 2020 season, with the pitcher having gone through the process a year ago.

Bazardo did everything one would ask throughout a professional career that began with am $8,000 signing bonus as an 18-year-old. In nine starts with Single-A Lowell he posted a 2.36 ERA, leading to a 3.21 ERA over five starts at Greenville that same 2018 season. In 2019 he was moved to the bullpen where he once again stood out, managing a 1.76 ERA in 17 appearances with Salem before finishing with 21 relief outings in Double-A Portland (2.78 ERA).

"He had been a guy managers would give the ball to at the end of games. Somebody they have always trusted," Romero said.

What is of some note is what more than a few of Bazardo’s 2019 relief stints looked like. In his 38 games he totaled 71 1/3 innings. He also proved to be effective against both sides of the plate, limiting lefties and righties to relatively the same batting average against. (Bazardo was actually slightly better against left-handed hitters, finishing the season with a 2.04 ERA compared to a 3.68 clip vs. right-handers.)

"When the move (from starter to reliever) was made I think there might have been some durability concerns. He has always been a healthy guy, but he didn't have that massive build," Romero said. "Given his repertoire, being a two-pitch guy the last year, year-and-a-half there has been some development. Right now he's a reliever but I can see us discussing if there needs to be a change in that role. He has just taken so much to the reliever role, especially late in games."

This isn’t the be-all, end-all starting rotation solution for the Red Sox. But Bazardo does offer some pitching intrigue for a team desperate for such a thing.