Xander Bogaerts tried to play through a stiff back and neck in Tuesday’s loss to the Mets, but without an off day until next week, the Red Sox decided to give him a quick breather on Wednesday.
The Red Sox shortstop was out of the lineup for the team’s first road game of the season on Wednesday night against Jacob deGrom and the Mets, but it’s expected to be a one-night absence. Bogaerts complained of some soreness in his back and neck after a play in Monday’s loss in which he fell hard to the ground.
“We knew he wasn’t 100% (Tuesday),” Red Sox manager Ron Roenicke said. “I know he told me he was good to go, but I think thinking about five more games before our off day, we thought (Wednesday) was a good day to do it and then hopefully he’ll play the next four and then have that day off.”
Tzu-Wei Lin took Bogaerts’ place at shortstop. It’s the second time already that Bogaerts has started a game on the bench. He sat to start Saturday’s loss to the Orioles in what was a scheduled off day, but entered the game late as a pinch hitter.
“He doesn’t want out of there,” Roenicke said earlier Wednesday on WEEI’s “Ordway, Merloni & Fauria” show. “He realizes that now, we need him in the lineup. It’s a different lineup. When you look through that thing and Bogey’s name isn’t there, it doesn’t quite look the same. So, he knows that he needed to be in there. He told me that he was OK, told the trainers (Tuesday) morning that he was OK, but he’s still banged up with the back and his neck, too.”
One of the best stories of the summer came to an abrupt end Wednesday as the Red Sox designated catcher Jonathan Lucroy for assignment. The Red Sox recalled right-handed pitcher Chris Mazza, who can provide some length and depth to a pitching staff that has struggled to start the season.
“We needed pitching,” Roenicke said. “We liked having the depth with the catching with (Lucroy) there and knowing that if something did go wrong, we had a third catcher or if we pinch ran, we’d have the third catcher but it hadn’t come up in the first few games, so we thought the more important move on that last roster spot was to have a pitcher that had some length to him.”
Lucroy had only appeared in one game, catching the final two innings of the Red Sox’ opening night win over the Orioles. The former All-Star catcher was strong at the plate in spring training, but didn’t make the same impression in summer camp, and the Red Sox seem to prefer Kevin Plawecki as Christian Vazquez’s backup.
Lucroy was attempting a comeback, finally fully healthy after neck surgery to repair a herniated disc, but the 34-year-old will have to do it somewhere else.
“I just wish we had opportunities to let him get out there and see what he could do,” said Roenicke, who managed Lucroy for parts of five seasons with the Brewers. “I think he’s healthy. The last couple years, he hadn’t been and I know numbers on everything were down for him, but he was doing a lot better defensively with (Jason Varitek) and his catching and we thought what he was doing with the bat would play. It’s just where we are, trying to get the guys in there that he didn’t have any opportunities.”
Starting in Darwinzon’s future?
Darwinzon Hernandez is still a long way from returning to the Red Sox after recovering from COVID-19. Roenicke said on WEEI that he was throwing a live bullpen Wednesday and will throw another one before a simulated game in Pawtucket. But when he eventually returns, the Red Sox seem to still want to give him a shot as a starter.
The hard-throwing Hernandez was electric as a reliever last season, and there’s been talk of him staying in that role. But if the Red Sox can build him up and stretch him out, there may be a few chances for him to start this season before it’s over.
“Eventually, we still think that this guy could be a starter,” Roenicke said on WEEI. “We may try to stretch him out a little bit longer, see if we can get him two, three innings and then who knows? Maybe he ends up being a starter at the end of this year, but we have to build him up first.”
Roenicke expanded on those comments later in his pregame media session, clarifying that they’re not sure what they want to do with Hernandez yet.
“We want to get him to the point where we know physically he’s ready to start and come back with us,” Roenicke said. “It may be to where we want him to be built up to at least two innings before he comes instead of one. But we’re not 100% on that either.
“It probably depends on what our needs are at the time and if we get better starting pitching we know we don’t need to cover the innings as much. But once that roster reduces we know the bullpen is going to be used more and hopefully your starters are stretched out, they’re pitching better and it all works out.”