June 7 is a special day for Jalen Beeks.
That’s the day in 2014 when the Boston Red Sox selected the left-hander in the 12th round of the MLB Draft. It’s also the day in 2018 he’ll make his major league debut; manager Alex Cora confirmed Tuesday night Beeks will get the start Thursday in Boston’s series finale against the Detroit Tigers.
The last four years haven’t all been smooth sailing for the Arkansas native and college teammate of Andrew Benintendi. He posted an uninspiring 4.32 ERA and 1.26 WHIP over 26 starts for the Single-A Greenville Drive in 2015 and struggled to find success the following season, logging a 4.68 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 13 appearances for Double-A Portland.
But things started to click for Beeks in 2017 thanks to an important offseason adjustment: He added a cutter.
The 5-foot-11 lefty showed off his new pitch last March in an exhibition spot start against Team USA, where he retired six of the eight batters he faced. That impressive performance spurred a strong 2017 campaign. Mixing his cutter with a low-90s fastball, curveball and changeup, Beeks started the season 5-1 with a 2.19 ERA for Portland before getting the call to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he struck out 97 batters in 95 2/3 innings while sporting a 3.86 ERA.
Beeks’ efforts earned him the Red Sox’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year award for 2017, and he hasn’t looked back since.
The once-unheralded 12th-rounder is off to a scintillating start for the PawSox in 2018, boasting a 2.56 ERA and 0.98 WHIP while striking out 80 batters in just 56 1/3 innings.
“He’s really come into his own as a pitcher,” PawSox pitching coach Kevin Walker told WEEI’s Alex Reimer of Beeks earlier this spring. “The stuff has always been there, but I would say it’s refining the stuff, and becoming consistent with your staff and actually learning how to pitch and how to sequence — studying hitters. All of those things, he’s doing them now. He’s on the brink of being a major league pitcher. He can pitch in the major leagues. It’s just about opportunity now.”
We’ll start finding out Thursday night.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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