The early talk of the Red Sox farm system was Boston’s young starting prospects in advanced Class A Salem. When would they get to Portland?

So far none of them have. They’re still developing.

But the Sea Dogs will take the relievers promoted from Salem, the latest being Matt Gorst – he of the 0.00 ERA through 15 innings.

“He’s been a welcomed addition,” Sea Dogs Manager Darren Fenster said.

Gorst figured to be pitching Sunday, but Portland’s game with the Hartford Yard Goats was rained out. The Sea Dogs are scheduled to be back at it Monday at Hadlock Field against the Harrisburg Senators. Gorst hasn’t pitched since Tuesday (three shutout innings), so Fenster likely will be calling him in.

Early in the season, when Fenster went to his relievers, he was gambling with the odds against him.


“The bullpen was our Achilles heel,” Fenster said. “But since the end of May, early June, it’s really been shored up.”

Gorst, 23, was the last piece of the shoring-up project, arriving June 22 in Portland after pitching in the Carolina League All-Star Game.

Gorst had a 1.59 ERA with Salem. Combine that with zeroes in Portland and his combined ERA is 1.04, second-best among Red Sox minor league relievers.

Not bad for a pitcher who flashed a 7.59 ERA his freshman year of college.

Gorst, a Georgia native and John Smoltz fan, pitched for Georgia Tech. He always relieved. He seemed effective but faded during the seasons. After his sophomore year (4.81 ERA), Gorst had bone spurs removed from his elbow.

“That was a major factor in me getting better,” said Gorst.


But no one knew it.

“I wasn’t exactly on the draft radar,” Gorst said.

But Gorst became Georgia Tech’s closer as a junior in 2016, and recorded a 0.55 ERA with 55 strikeouts/13 walks in 49 innings.

“It all happened so fast,” said Gorst, who began hearing predictions of being drafted early. He lasted until the 12th round, when the Red Sox took him and paid him an over-the-slot bonus of $115,000.

“I thought I might have gone a little earlier but I was still super excited,” Gorst said.

Sometimes the Red Sox stretch out relievers into starters, but Gorst stayed in the pen. He began 2017 with Greenville (with Fenster managing) before moving on to Salem.


“His approach is to go right after hitters with an ability to command the strike zone,” Fenster said. “His weapon is his cutter. He’s not a radar gun guy who’s going to light you up, but his four-seam fastball is enough when combined with the cutter.”

Gorst throws his fastball in the low 90’s, but the cutter is his pitch. He will toss in a curveball and hopes to develop his change-up into another weapon against left-handers.

The cutter seems to be working just fine, boring in on left-handed batters. They are hitting .091 against him (right-handers .172). His walks-hits per innings pitched (WHIP) in Portland is 0.87.

Gorst followed another powerful addition – but a familiar name – to the Sea Dogs’ pen. Travis Lakins, a starter who has suffered two stress fractures in his elbow, became a reliever on May 31. The Red Sox are moving cautiously with Lakins but, as Fenster said, “he continues to pass one test after another.”

Lakins, 24, has made 18 relief appearances (19 innings), recording a 0.95 ERA and 0.74 WHIP. He has struck out 21, walking eight. Opponents are batting .095 against him.

Two other bullpen additions came earlier in May – Jordan Weems and Josh Taylor. Weems, 25, in only his second full season as a pitcher (converting from catching) was promoted from Salem on May 4. His ERA is 3.81 (2.08 in July), with 31 strikeouts/13 walks in 281/3 innings. Taylor, 25, came from the Diamondbacks as the player to be named later in the Deven Marrero trade. He started slow but has settled in (2.70 ERA in July).


Another bullpen improvement was internal. Adam Lau rebounded from some rough outings to record a 1.86 ERA over June and July.

These Sea Dogs, who are 11-9 since June 29, are finding arms they can rely on.

Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:

Twitter: @ClearTheBases

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