Mike Shawaryn is figuring it out. He looks almost as comfortable with a baseball in his hand as he did with a saxophone.

Shawaryn, 23, one of the Boston Red Sox top pitching prospects, played a lot of sax and piano in his schoolboy days. With the sax, Shawaryn set the bar high, trying pieces by Charlie Parker, the bebop jazz artist from the 1940’s and early 1950’s. Parker’s pieces are complex and the tempo quick.

“I probably didn’t play them as fast as he did,” Shawaryn said. “They’re challenging but they’re fun.”

Challenging describes Shawaryn task of reaching the rotation in the major leagues.

And it seems that if Shawaryn is having fun – and not giving in to pressure – he will accomplish his goal.

Shawaryn admits to being impatient – the “try to do too much” syndrome – and trips up.


“He’s got raw stuff. I don’t think he really knows how to harness it,” Portland Sea Dogs pitching coach Paul Abbott said.

But he is getting close.

In his second full pro season, Shawaryn’s 2.88 ERA is second among starters at the top three levels of the Red Sox minor leagues (behind Pawtucket left-hander Jalen Beeks’ 1.72). He has 29 strikeouts in 34 innings with a 1.02 WHIP (walks/hits per inning).

Shawaryn’s latest start was his most impressive, throwing six shutout innings against the strong New Hampshire Fisher Cats lineup featuring some of baseball’s top prospects.

“Very good,” Abbott said. “He pitched effectively to the game plan, had an idea what to stay away from and what to attack, and he executed.

“He had a four-pitch mix … Fastball had life to it and he commanded it well.”


Shawaryn’s fastball ranges from the low to mid-90’s and, as Abbott points out, is lively.

That’s why the outlook is so high on Shawaryn, who ranks among the top 10 Red Sox prospects – anywhere from No. 6 to No. 9 depending the media outlet.

Such a steal as a fifth-round draft pick in 2016.

A year before, Shawaryn figured to be a first- or second-rounder, but his young career has had a few peaks and valleys.

In his junior year at Gloucester (N.J.) Catholic High, Shawaryn sat out with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow.

Often that injury leads to the invasive Tommy John surgery and a long comeback, but Shawaryn and his doctors opted for rest and rehab. He came back for a stellar senior year in 2013, drawing college and pro scouts.


Unlike others, who make their college commitment early, Shawaryn deliberated between Maryland, Duke and Vanderbilt.

“I couldn’t go wrong. That was the nice part about it,” Shawaryn said.

He took so long to make his decision, one Maryland coach said Shawaryn was becoming a mystery figure and nicknamed him “The Unicorn.” Shawaryn chose Maryland and the nickname stuck.

The Kansas City Royals drafted Shawaryn in the 32nd round but he was going to college. He packed up his books and his glove, leaving the saxophone behind.

“I got busy,” he said.

He did, helping the Terrapins to two straight NCAA tournaments. As a sophomore, Shawaryn was 13-2 with a 1.71 ERA, and 138 strikeouts in 116 innings. He was named a first-team All-American – the first Maryland pitcher so honored in 33 years.


Expectations were high his junior year, so his numbers seemed so-so – 6-4, 3.18, 97 strikeouts. There were rumors he was hurt.

“I don’t know where that came from. I wasn’t injured,” he said. “We had a new team, young guys, and I put too much pressure on myself … I took a lot of the burden of going out there and wanting to be perfect every time rather than just being myself.

“If anything, it helped, I learned from that.”

Shawaryn’s draft stock may have fallen but he finished the year strong with 16 strikeouts in a Big Ten playoff game, and the Red Sox remained interested.

“Nice pitch mix. Good fastball command,” said Ben Crockett, the Boston director of player development.

“He’s got some competitiveness to him.”


In his first full pro season, Shawaryn was again trying to do too much.

“I didn’t have a great spring training … putting too much pressure on myself,” he said.

Shawaryn’s 2017 debut with low Class A Greenville: two innings, seven hits, nine earned runs, two hit batters.

But he learned from previous adversity.

“If you let it linger, that’s when it becomes a problem,” said Shawaryn, who turned it around immediately, earned a promotion to advanced Class A Salem in early June and established himself as a top prospect.

The fastball is working fine. His cut fastball, developed last year, is a strikeout-pitch. The slider works and the change-up is coming along.


Mike Shawaryn sees the challenge ahead and, like he did with his music, he’s learning, improving, and enjoying the process.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-7411 or:


Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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