Portland Sea Dogs right-hander Brayan Bello is 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings this season. He was named Eastern League Pitcher of the Week on Monday after throwing a seven-inning no-hitter on Thursday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Brayan Bello and Brandon Walter are coming off arguably their best starts of the season for the Portland Sea Dogs, but both know a fantastic start has to be part of a trend, not a one-game wonder.

In the first game of a doubleheader sweep over the Reading Fightin Phils on Thursday, Walter allowed no runs, three hits, and one walk – his first of the season— while striking out 10 in a 5-1 win.

“I’ve come into every start with the same goal,” the left-hander said Friday at Hadlock Field. “I have three pitches that grade out pretty good, and I try to throw them in the strike zone as much as I can. It’s not overcomplicated or anything. Keep it simple. Throw as many strikes as I can and get ahead in the counts. That’s when my stuff works the best, when I can get them to chase things out of the zone.”

In the nightcap of the doubleheader, Bello was even better, throwing a seven-inning no-hitter with five strikeouts and three walks, allowing an unearned run in a 3-1 win.

“Right from the beginning of the start, he knew his pitches were right where they were supposed to be,” said Sea Dog relief pitcher Oddanier Mosqueda, translating for Bello.

Over the first month of the season, the strength of the Sea Dogs (13-14) has been their starting pitching. The five starters – Bello, Walter, Chris Murphy, Jay Groome and Victor Santos – boast a combined 2.73 earned run average.

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At the top of that rotation have been Walter and Bello.

In five starts, Walter is 1-0 with a 0.93 ERA with 39 strikeouts and just one walk in 29 innings. Bello, a right-hander, is 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. Opponents are hitting .165 against Walter, and .135 against Bello. Walter was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Month in April, and on Monday, Bello was named the league’s Pitcher of the Week.

Bello, 22, is the fifth-ranked prospect in the Red Sox farm system, according to mlb.com, while Walter, 25, is eighth. Left-handed pitchers Murphy and Groome, are ranked 10th and 11th, respectively.

“Brayan spent some time here last year, and I think that experience was really good for him. He’s really matured as a player and as a person. His stuff gets better and better,” said Lance Carter, Portland’s pitching coach. “Walt, he’s just filling up the strike zone, and he trusts his stuff in the strike zone. His ball moves all over the place. I get the privilege to watch them go out and do their thing.”

Sea Dogs starter Brandon Walter delivers a pitch against the Reading Fightin Phils on Thursday at Hadlock Field in Portland. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Neither Walter nor Bello has allowed more than two earned runs in a start this season. When Walter walked Reading’s Aldrem Corredor with two out in the top of the sixth inning Thursday, he knew the pitch, a slider low and away, was ball four the second it left his fingers.

“In a long season, you’re going to walk somebody. You want to keep that streak going as long as you can. It’s cool. It’s something you can brag about,” said Walter, who was selected by Boston in the 26th round of the 2019 draft. “Kudos to (Corredor), he laid off it. It was close, a little low and away. It definitely wasn’t a strike. It was one of those that maybe gets swung at sometimes.”

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Walter relies on a fastball in the mid-90s, along with that slider and a changeup. Bello throws a hard two-seam fastball in the mid-90s along with a changeup and slider. The changeup is the pitch Bello feels he needs to improve to make the jump to Triple-A Worcester, and after that Boston.

“He thinks all his pitches are going really good, but he’s working with his two-seamer. The same with his changeup. It’s working good for him, this year and last year too,” said Mosqueda, again translating Bello, who signed with the Red Sox as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2017.

Bello made the jump from High-A Greenville to Double-A Portland last season, making 15 starts with the Sea Dogs. That experience taught him how important it is to stay ahead of the hitters in the count, Bello said.

“(Bello) knows he belongs. He went to big league camp and he’s on the 40-man roster. The confidence that gives him, he carried that right over into the season. He’s always had the stuff. It’s a matter of gaining the experience and repetition for him,” Carter said.

Walter began the 2021 season in Low-A Salem as a relief pitcher, before making the transition to starter. Playing in both Salem and Greenville last season, Walter made 14 starts.

“It was a total transition from being a back-end reliever,” Walter said. “Being in the bullpen was new to me. In college, I was a starter four years there. The turnaround here is quicker with the five-day rotation. In college, you have a whole week to recover.”

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While pitching in college at the University of Delaware, Walter had Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his left arm in 2017.

“I had issues with that, I’d say the first two years after surgery. After I hit that two-year mark it started to turn around. No pain, no discomfort. All the mobility came back,” Walter said.

Unlike the other four members of Portland’s starting rotation, this season is Walter’s first taste of Double-A. The competition has been tougher, as expected, he said, but Walter thinks he’s stepped up to the challenge.

“When they get that little taste (of Double-A), they settle in a little easier,” Carter said. “This is where you see who can separates themselves from each other, and hopefully these guys can keep doing this.”


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