Kyle Hart, who had a 3.38 ERA in 33 starts for the Portland Sea Dogs in 2018 and 2019, is being promoted to the majors for the first time and will start for the Boston Red Sox on Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Jill Brady/Staff Photographer

When Kyle Hart was called to a meeting Tuesday with Triple-A Pawtucket Manager Billy McMillon and Boston Red Sox director of player development Ben Crockett, he was told he was being fined by Major League Baseball for not wearing a mask.

“That’s kind of a real scenario. I was a little worried at first,” Hart said.

“But then they told me, ‘you can pay your fine at Fenway Park.’”

Hart could laugh at the prank. He is still taking in the news: He’ll make his major league debut on Thursday.

Hart, who pitched for the Portland Sea Dogs in 2018 and part of 2019, will start for the Boston Red Sox against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Hart’s underdog climb to the majors is a feel-good story. He’s getting a chance because Boston desperately needs pitching help. The Red Sox are 13th in the American League in ERA (5.01). Only four Boston pitchers have made more than one start, and one of them is Ryan Weber (9.90 ERA), who was demoted from the active roster after three starts.

Boston is ready to give Hart a try.

“It would be nice to let a guy go a little bit longer in his first outing and see where he’s at,” Boston Manager Ron Roenicke said.

Hart, 27, is a tall, crafty lefty. The Red Sox have invested heavily in others of the sort, including first-round picks Henry Owens (2011) and Brian Johnson (2012).

Owens started 16 games for Boston over two seasons but is now in independent ball. Johnson fared better (65 games, 26 starts) but was taken off the 40-man roster in the offseason. When Johnson saw his chances with Boston fading, he asked for – and received – his release last week.

Hart was chosen in the 19th round in 2016 out of Indiana University, where he spent five years – including a redshirt season after Tommy John surgery. Unlike Owens and Johnson, who each got a $1.5 million signing bonus, Hart signed for $5,000.

While there may have been low expectations, Hart rose smoothly through the system, mixing a high-80s fastball with a deadly change-up and good curveball. By the time he reached Portland, his fastball ticked up as high as 93 mph, and he improved his curveball. The mix was working, although a few tough outings boosted his ERA to 3.57.

In 2019, Hart broke out. His fourth start featured 6 2/3 innings of hitless ball, and he combined with Daniel McGrath and Adam Lau on a no-hitter.

Hart made only nine starts for the Sea Dogs in 2019 (2.91 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) before being promoted to Pawtucket. His Triple-A debut was a five-hit shutout. He finished with a 3.86 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 100 1/3 innings.

The Red Sox protected Hart from the Rule 5 draft by putting him on the 40-man roster. When the 2020 season restarted, Hart was part of Boston’s 60-man player pool, and he was sent to the alternate training site in Pawtucket. Because he was on the 40-man roster, Hart became an option should the Red Sox need him.

They need him.

“I’m happy with how things have come along,” Hart said. “My pitch mix is right where it needs to be to compete at this level.

“My mindset is they’re giving me an opportunity (Thursday). I need to pitch (well) to earn another one.”

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