Away from the spotlight, in the virtual anonymity that the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League provides, the top left-handed pitching prospect in baseball took his first steps forward in his pro career on Monday afternoon.
Jason Groome, the Red Sox's first-round pick who was ranked No. 1 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 200 Draft Prospects list at the time of the Draft in June, threw his first two professional innings at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., and he certainly didn't show any signs of competitive rust.
Groome, currently ranked No. 36 on the overall Top 100 list, threw a pair of shutout innings against the GCL Rays. The southpaw allowed just one hit -- a two-out double from Jonathon Arrowoood -- while walking none and striking out three. He wasted no time settling in, getting Rays leadoff hitter Vidal Brujan on a groundout to first, then striking out the next two hitters to end the inning.
Groome fanned cleanup hitter Michael Brosseau to start the second, giving him three straight strikeouts, then induced a flyout and one more ground-ball out around Arrowood's double.
The Barnegat (N.J.) High School product was thought by many to be the top talent in the 2016 Draft class, but concerns about his makeup combined with reported bonus demands sent the big left-hander down some Draft boards. There were rumors the Padres had worked out a deal with Groome with one of their two picks at No. 24 and 25 for $5 million, but Boston decided his talent was too much to pass up, so the Red Sox rolled the dice and took him at No. 12. Somewhat limited in terms of bonus pool flexibility, they were able to go nearly $500,000 above pick value to sign Groome for $3.65 million.
Since Groome hadn't pitched competitively for some time, he had spent the time from the signing deadline on July 15 until now getting himself back into pitching shape. If his first outing is any indication, he took that work seriously and is ready to begin his long climb from the GCL up to Boston.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.