When Boston Red Sox left-hander Kyle Hart learned he would be called on to make his major league debut against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday afternoon, the message came in a highly peculiar manner.
The 27-year-old pitcher was summoned into the manager's office in Pawtucket, R.I., on Tuesday, and Red Sox vice president of player development Ben Crockett was one of four people in the room.
Hart thought the meeting would result in his promotion to the majors, but the tone took a turn for the worse.
"They told me that I was actually getting fined by Major League Baseball for not wearing my mask," Hart said during a video call with reporters. "That's kind of a real scenario that is going to happen and probably has happened. I was a little worried at first, but then they told me, 'You can pay your fine at Fenway Park tomorrow.' Luckily, it was just a prank and they were pulling my leg."
Hart now strives to pitch as well as the quality of the prank when he tackles a Tampa Bay squad that has won the first three contests of the four-game series and has recorded five straight wins overall.
Hart was a 19th-round selection in the 2016 draft and has gone 25-29 with a 3.13 ERA in 77 appearances (71 starts) in the minors.
Hart isn't a flamethrower but has flashed the ability to record outs and that has impressed Red Sox pitching coach Dave Bush.
"I don't expect any particularly big changes with him, but as he's done the last couple years, he's just getting incrementally better at each of those small things to allow him to be successful at each step along the way," Bush said. "No magic answers, no big changes. His command is going to be critical. It always is for him.
"The stuff is not going to light up a radar gun, but he's got multiple pitches (and) commands the ball to both sides of the plate."
Boston will be hoping for a solid outing from Hart after Tampa Bay piled up 25 runs and 40 hits over the first three games.
The Red Sox have dropped seven straight home games against the Rays and 12 of the past 13.
Tampa Bay slugged four homers in Wednesday's 9-5 victory. Brandon Lowe and Yoshi Tsutsugo slugged two-run homers and Willy Adames and Austin Meadows hit solo blasts.
Lowe went 3-for-5 with three runs, Yandy Diaz went 3-for-5 with one RBI, and Kevin Kiermaier went 3-for-4 to fuel the Rays' 15-hit attack.
Lowe improved his career average in Fenway Park to .444 in 27 at-bats, while the homer was his third. Meadows is 12-for-39 (.308) with three homers at Fenway.
"They enjoy it the most," Adames said of Meadows and Lowe playing in Fenway. "They always rake, and it's fun to watch."
Also finding Wednesday's offensive production enjoyable was Rays manager Kevin Cash.
"We had tremendous at-bats early on," Cash said. "We got runs, and the most impressive thing is we continued to add throughout the (middle) innings, and that helped us."
Hoping the series-long run support continues is right-hander Tyler Glasnow (0-1, 5.56 ERA), who will be on the mound for Tampa Bay in the finale.
Glasnow lasted just 2 2/3 innings while losing to the New York Yankees last Saturday. He gave up four runs, five hits, three walks and struck out five.
Glasnow, who turns 27 on Aug. 23, is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in four career outings (all starts) versus the Red Sox. Michael Chavis, J.D. Martinez and Mitch Moreland have hit homers off Glasnow.
Martinez hit a grand slam in Boston's Wednesday loss, his second homer of the season.
--Field Level Media