The Salem Red Sox lost a Kutter a couple of weeks ago when Mr. Crawford was promoted to Double-A Portland on June 20.

That same day, a pitcher arrived who could help fill that gap in the rotation. And it happens to be a guy who’s thriving since adding his own cutter.

Right-hander Thad Ward has been stellar since joining the Salem pitching staff, posting a 1.65 ERA in three starts. He’s struck out 19 in 16 1/3 innings.

You won’t find him on any of the lists of top Red Sox prospects – yet. But he could be there soon.

Ward’s early Carolina League success comes on the heels of a brilliant 13-game run at Single-A Greenville. He went 5-2 with 1.99 ERA there, earning a trip to the South Atlantic League All-Star Game.

Ward was Boston’s fifth-round draft pick in 2018 out of the University of Central Florida, where he was a first-team All-American Conference selection as a junior. After signing for $275,000, he went 0-3 with a 3.77 ERA in his pro debut for low-A Lowell last summer.

Enter the cut-fastball, which he’s used as a complement to his low-to-mid-90s heater. The pitch has helped him generate weak contact and work deeper into starts.

Shortly before his promotion to Salem, Ward strung together five straight starts totaling 32 1/3 innings in which he didn’t allow an earned run.

Ward was similarly stout in his most recent outing for Salem. Facing host Fayetteville on Wednesday, he struck out a career-high 10 batters over six innings.

He’s slated for his next start at home on Monday, when the Sox play the opener of a day-night doubleheader at 11:05 a.m.

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