In three September starts to end the season with the Sea Dogs, Jay Groome went 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA over 15 2/3 innings while posting 26 strikeouts against only four walks. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Jay Groome was once viewed as close to a sure thing. Considered a possible No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, the high school lefty dropped into the lap of the Red Sox at No. 12 because of signability concerns, and the hope was that within a few years he could be a difference-maker in Boston’s rotation.

In the five years since, things haven’t gone quite so smoothly.

Thanks to a series of injuries, setbacks and the COVID-19 pandemic, Groome had only pitched 66 innings in five years as a professional heading into 2021. He didn’t pitch in 2018 and 2020because of Tommy John surgery and the pandemic, and he only managed four innings in 2019 as he worked his way back to full health.

Needless to say, Groome had a lot of catching up to do when he finally got back on the mound in 2021, and a lot to prove.

Pitching his first full season in nearly four years, Groome’s 2021 was largely a success. He posted a 4.81 ERA while throwing 97 1/3 innings – by far the most in his career – and led the Red Sox minor league system with 134 strikeouts against only 36 walks. He earned a late-season promotion to the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs and was subsequently named a All-Star.

Groome spent most of the season at High-A Greenville and went 3-8 with 5.29 ERA, which was largely a product of a tough start. He posted a 7.88 ERA in five May starts, but from there he settled down, though his monthly ERAs remained uninspiring.

Yet even while he continued allowing runs, there was a lot to like in his game.

For one, Groome was pitching deeper into his outings. From May 28 onward, he pitched five or more innings in 11 of 14 starts, and over that stretch he threw 70 2/3 innings. Prior to that he had only pitched that deep into a game seven times in 20 career starts.

In addition, his strikeout and walk totals were excellent. Groome averaged 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings in Greenville and had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.38. Overall, he had 108 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings, compared to just 32 walks.

Those figures played a big role in his September call-up to Portland, where he put together arguably the best stretch of his career against the toughest competition he’d ever faced.

In three September starts to end the season with the Sea Dogs, Groome went 2-0 with a 2.30 ERA over 15 2/3 innings while posting 26 strikeouts against only four walks. His first two starts were particularly encouraging. Groome pitched five shutout innings with 10 strikeouts in his Double-A debut, then took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his next start, finishing with six scoreless innings and nine strikeouts.

Now healthy and with some real momentum for the first time in his career, Groome will look to make a big push heading into 2022. The Red Sox have already added him to their 40-man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft, and if he pitches well, he should have a chance to move up to Triple-A Worcester before long.

After that, it may only be a matter of time before Boston’s patience in Groome finally pays off.

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