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As the roster churns: Why the Red Sox made six roster moves with more to come

05.24.13 at 6:03 pm ET
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Will Middlebrooks landed on the DL due to a strained lower back. (AP)It is the busiest transaction day of the year for the Red Sox, who made six roster moves with more to come in the coming days. Here’s a look at the moves that were made and the moves that likely will be made, with a brief explanation for each:

SHANE VICTORINO PLACED ON 15-DAY DL (LEFT HAMSTRING STRAIN), RETROACTIVE TO MAY 21

Victorino had been unable to play for the last three games. The Red Sox roster is currently running thin, given that the bullpen was nearly emptied in Thursday’s 12-3 blowout loss to the Indians and that Victorino and Will Middlebrooks both faced injuries. While the Sox had planned to wait until closer to the one-week mark of Victorino’s stretch of being unable to play before making a decision on him, the need to summon reinforcements from the minors somewhat forced the Sox’ hands. So, too, did the fitful progress he’d made since suffering the injury. It hadn’t been a straight-line improvement, but instead an up-and-down trajectory. Given that, the Sox, according to manager John Farrell, felt that Victorino was “in need of this extended time and treatment.”

Victorino is hitting .283/.343/.362 while playing dazzling right field defense in 34 games this year. He’s missed 14 games due to back injuries and the hamstring. This is his first stint on the DL this year.

WILL MIDDLEBROOKS PLACED ON 15-DAY DL (LOWER BACK STRAIN)

Middlebrooks experienced some discomfort in his lower back (which he didn’t report to the team at the time) when slipping a bit while running out of the batter’s box in his final at-bat on Wednesday night in Chicago. On Thursday, he experienced increasing stiffness/tightness in his back and was removed from the game. He was sent for an MRI on Friday, which (according to Farrell) revealed “inflammation in the muscles surrounding the spine.” At a minimum, he was going to need three to five days of inactivity “to get ahead of it.” At another time, the Sox might have been inclined to wait. But given the roster limitations created by both the bullpen depletion and Victorino’s absence, the Sox felt they had to make a move.

Middlebrooks, 24, is hitting .201/.234/.408 with eight homers and 12 doubles.

JOSE IGLESIAS CALLED UP FROM TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET

With Middlebrooks out, it is Iglesias who will get the start at third base on Friday. That decision comes after Iglesias started his first — and only — game of his life at third base on Tuesday for Triple-A Pawtucket, in which he committed a throwing error but showed impressive instincts for the position (even though he needed help from the dugout with his positioning). (More on his day at third base here.)

Rarely is an experiment in versatility rewarded so quickly as this one with Iglesias at a new position. The 23-year-old expressed enthusiasm for the opportunity.

“It’s different. There’s no doubt it’s a different position. But I’ll go out there and have some fun and help the team win,” said Iglesias. “I think it’s good [to be versatile]. It’s good for me. I’m moving around to help the team in different positions. It’s fun. It’s fun to move around and watch the game from a different angle. It’s fun to be in the lineup.”

While it is difficult to imagine a defensive wizard such as Iglesias being nervous at any time when he has a glove on his hand, he acknowledged that he was “absolutely” nervous in his third base debut on Tuesday, and he expects the same to be true when he makes his first start at third base.

“Absolutely, I will be nervous. You need to have that playing this game,” said Iglesias. “It is a little bit emotional, and that will push you to be better.”

Iglesias has flashed a measure of power this year in Pawtucket, but his offensive numbers (.202 average, .262 OBP, .319 slugging) are otherwise horrendous. In May, he’s hitting .158/.234/.211. But the infielder suggests that his approach at the plate has been better than those numbers.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten the results, but I’ve put some good ABs together,” said Iglesias. “That’s all I can ask for, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

DAVID ROSS ACTIVATED FROM 7-DAY CONCUSSION DL

Ross, 36, took a pair of foul balls off the face mask on May 11. The next day, he experienced concussion symptoms — difficulty with light, wooziness, fatigue, unusually emotional responses to everyday events — that pointed to a concussion and resulted in a stint on the DL. He experienced steady improvement to the point where he a) passed tests from both the Red Sox and Major League Baseball that suggested no neurological evidence of a concussion and b) played in a minor league rehab game with Double-A Portland on Thursday, going 1-for-3 with a double and catching five innings. With medical clearance and no discomfort playing, Ross — hitting .209 with a .320 OBP, .512 slugging mark and four homers in 15 games — was activated.

RYAN LAVARNWAY OPTIONED TO TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET

With Ross ready to play, Lavarnway was sent back down to Triple-A to get regular playing time in Pawtucket. Lavarnway had a nice final note in this big league stint, smashing a double to center as a pinch-hitter on Thursday night. In three games during his time in the big leagues, he was 2-for-8 with a double and a walk. The Sox were 1-1 in the two games he started.

ALFREDO ACEVES RECALLED FROM TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET

With Ryan Dempster logging just three innings on Thursday, the Red Sox bullpen was taxed. Clayton Mortensen, usually the long man for the Sox, logged 50 pitches in two rough innings, while Alex Wilson threw 28 pitches in an inning of work.

That meant that the Red Sox wanted a pitcher capable of offering innings. Aceves, who last started on May 17 but who has a 3.13 ERA in four starts spanning 23 innings, not only fits that bill but is on the 40-man roster, making it easy to call him up. That said, Farrell noted his discomfort with the idea of carrying 13 pitchers for anything beyond the immediate term.

“We’re carrying an extra reliever right now. At some point we’d like to get back to the balance of 12 pitchers and 13 position players,” said Farrell.

And that means …

… JACKIE BRADLEY JR. LIKELY WILL BE CALLED UP IN THE COMING DAYS

With Victorino out, the Red Sox likely will make a move to add an outfielder given that they have just one centerfielder (Jacoby Ellsbury) and one right fielder (Daniel Nava) on their roster. Given the paucity of outfielders on the 40-man roster, that likely means a move for Bradley, who has been playing well in Pawtucket since returning from a stint on the DL due to biceps tendinitis. In 15 games in Triple-A, Bradley is now hitting .322/.420/.458.

He’s starting for Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday in Louisville, but there’s an excellent chance that he’ll join the Red Sox once the team’s pitching is reset. Asked if Bradley was a consideration for a callup with Victorino out, Farrell said only, “I think we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves because of the need for a pitcher right now. So as we reshuffle or maybe rebalance our roster, other names will start to come into the mix.”

Bradley’s manager in Triple-A, Gary DiSarcina, said that he views Bradley as being ready to contribute at the major league level right now based on his offensive approach in recent days, but he suggested that the decision about whether or not to call him up is complicated by the idea that Bradley is continuing to rebuild arm strength after his stint on the DL.

Read More: alfredo aceves, David Ross, jackie bradley jr., jose iglesias
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