The Boston Red Sox made a slew of roster moves Friday, putting outfielder Shane Victorino and third baseman Will Middlebrooks on the disabled list, activating catcher David Ross, promoting pitcher Alfredo Aceves and infielder Jose Iglesias and demoting Ryan Lavarnway.
The rash of transactions came a day after Middlebrooks left a 12-3 loss to Cleveland after just four innings because of a lower-back strain, Victorino sat out his third straight game with a hamstring issue, and the bullpen was forced to eat up six innings after a poor start by Ryan Dempster.
Manager John Farrell had been hoping to keep Victorino off the DL, his stint retroactive to May 21. The moves became necessary when an MRI on Middlebrooks' back showed inflammation in the muscles surrounding the spine, leaving Farrell with two regulars suffering from injuries that would require at least a couple more days of rest.
Extended time off might be necessary anyway for Victorino, who also has had a back injury, then hurt his side slamming into the short wall in right field at Fenway Park during the previous homestand. His first two months in a Red Sox uniform have seen multiple interruptions.
"The thing that was frustrating for us, coming off that seven days [with the back injury], running into the wall probably didn't help. But coming back and taking two days off, coming back for a game and a half and something else resurfacing," Victorino said. "I think that's the part that frustrated not only myself but I think the training staff. I don't want to be that guy and play half a game and have something resurface and somebody else has to go in for me. That's not the kind of player I am. That kind of stuff frustrates me."
Victorino said he understood that with Middlebrooks hurt there was a need for more reinforcements for an already-thin bench. Waiting was no longer an option. Farrell recognizes the reality of the situation, as well. While Aceves, who was in the rotation for Triple-A Pawtucket, provides some immediate support in the bullpen, the roster shuffle keeps the bench a man short.
That should change soon.
"Given the short start last night we needed a pitcher in the short term," Farrell said. "We're carrying an extra reliever, obviously, right now. At some point we'd like to get back to the balance of carrying 12 pitchers and 13 position players."
Speculation has arisen that Jackie Bradley Jr. could be a candidate if and when another position player is needed. In the middle of a season-long slump, Middlebrooks (0 for his last 11 and hitting .201) left Thursday's game with spasms in his lower back. He had been playing through bruised ribs as well, but that did not contribute to the spasms, Farrell said.
Farrell added that it would take three to five days "just to get ahead" of the injury to Middlebrooks. The location of the injury also played a part in the decision-making process.
"Given where we are with the roster position, player-wise, we had to make a move, and really precautionary for Will," Farrell said. "Lower-back issues, we talked about with Shane, same thing here with Will. We don't want to be taking anything too risky that could prolong."
Iglesias, regularly a shortstop, was given a start at third base earlier in the week at Pawtucket and will start there Friday night for the Red Sox against the Indians. He will hit ninth.
Activated from the seven-day concussion DL, Ross had missed the past 11 games after being struck in the catcher's mask by two straight foul balls in the ninth inning of a game May 11 against the Blue Jays.
Ross discussed a previous concussion that led to some memory loss after a blow to the back of the head. This one was a bit different.
"Talked with my wife about normal stuff, got real emotional, started crying at the drop of a hat," he said. "I'm not really a crier. My wife was like, 'You're messed up, you need to see a doctor.' "
Ross said the trainers told him the symptoms sometimes take time to set in, and that's why he did not feel as much initially. They set in motion the seven-day concussion stint that required a little extra time before Ross was ready.
Aceves was demoted April 24 after a meeting with Farrell, pitching coach Juan Nieves and general manager Ben Cherington after Boston's 6-5 win over Oakland at Fenway Park.
Prior to his demotion, Aceves had made three starts in place of John Lackey, who was on the DL. Aceves surrendered 12 earned runs in 13 1/3 innings before being sent down. In four starts with the PawSox, Aceves was 2-1 with a 3.13 ERA. He last pitched May 17 and will be utilized in long relief for Boston.