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Red Sox prospect health updates: Kalish, Navarro, Middlebrooks, Tazawa

06.15.11 at 12:30 pm ET

A few health-related notes about Red Sox prospects who are returning from injury:

–Had all gone according to plan, outfielder Ryan Kalish likely would have seen game action by this point. However, while the recovery of his left shoulder (in which he suffered a partial tear of the labrum while attempting a diving catch for Triple-A Pawtucket in April) is proceeding as the Sox had hoped, the 23-year-old is dealing with what Sox VP of Player Personnel Mike Hazen described as “a little bit of a stiff neck.”

That, in turn, forced Kalish to shut down his baseball activities for a bit, and forced him to renew his progression back to the field, starting with hitting off a tee. Hazen suggested that the outfielder is making improvement to the point where “it should not be long” before he is in a lineup. With the downtime, Kalish — barring a setback — should be fairly close to playing the outfield by the time he is ready to play in games. While he will split his time between DH and the outfield in deference to the fact that he is recovering from an injury, the Sox are optimistic that he will be able to play in the outfield by the end of the month.

–Right-hander Junichi Tazawa, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery, has made significant steps forward in his rehab assignment with the Hi-A Salem Red Sox in recent outings. It took him a while to recover his velocity, which was sitting in the mid-80s both while he rehabbed in Fort Myers and also in his initial outings for Salem. Tazawa was shelled for 12 runs in 7 1/3 innings over his first two rehab starts, walking five and striking out just three. However, in his most recent three starts, he’s tossed nine shutout innings, struck out eight and walked one, and perhaps more importantly, his velocity bumped back up to 91.

“He’€™s been slow getting back there, but he’€™s been solid,” Hazen said of the 25-year-old. “He’€™s getting more comfortable with the slider, the split, competing under the lights. He’€™s been good.”

Tazawa will make one more start with Salem before his 30-day rehab assignment expires; after that, the Sox will determine the pitcher’s next step. Since he will be reinstated from the 60-day disabled list, the Sox will need a 40-man roster spot for Tazawa. However, they currently have an opening on the 40-man thanks to the trade that sent Mike McKenry to the Pirates, and the Sox can also move Rich Hill to the 60-day disabled list to create a roster spot when needed.

It is noteworthy that the Sox have one current vacancy on the 40-man roster and one potential one, since that means that the team can both add Tazawa back from the 60-day DL and, conceivably, call up Andrew Miller from the minors without having to remove anyone from the 40-man roster. However, multiple team officials said that the McKenry trade had nothing to do with freeing a roster spot for either Tazawa or Miller, and that it was motivated by a desire instead to promote catcher Ryan Lavarnway — one of the most consistent hitters in the system — to Pawtucket. (For more on Lavarnway’s promotion, click here.)

–Third base prospect Will Middlebrooks is dealing with a sore elbow that Hazen characterized as a minor injury. While the team opted to take the most conservative course in putting him on the seven-day disabled list, the 2007 fifth-rounder should soon be ready to return to games. The Sox had Middlebrooks head to Lowell to rehab rather than accompany the Sea Dogs on a roadtrip to Erie and Akron that includes multiple off days. It is possible that Middlebrooks could play briefly on a rehab assignment for the Spinners before rejoining Portland as a matter of logistical convenience, but regardless, he should soon be playing in games in a matter of days.

–Second baseman Sean Coyle will have to hit with a face guard after having been beaned last week. A pitch hit him in the mouth, resulting in a trip to the hospital (during which Coyle remained lucid, and spent much of his time requesting game updates via twitter while sitting in the emergency room) and a subsequent trip to the dentist to be fitted for braces after a couple of his teeth were bent back. Still, he is showing no concussion symptoms and as of earlier this week, he was taking swings with his protective helmet. Once he’s comfortable in the batter’s box, he should soon be back in games.

Coyle, a third-rounder out of high school last year who received a signing bonus ($1.3 million) commensurate with a first-round pick, is hitting just .228 this year, but with an advanced plate approach (25 walks, good for a .360 OBP) while showing surprising power for his 5-foot-8 frame, especially as a 19-year-old playing for a full-season affiliate. He’s hit five homers among his 21 extra-base hits.

Read More: junichi tazawa, ryan kalish, Will Middlebrooks, yamaico navarro
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