Nagging injuries have pinched the Red Sox roster and forced them to make a handful of moves on Friday.
Lower-back spasms sent third baseman Will Middlebrooks to the 15-day disabled list along with outfielder Shane Victorino (retroactive to May 21), who had been dealing with a strained left hamstring. Infielder Jose Iglesias and righthander Alfredo Aceves were called up from Triple A Pawtucket.
Middlebrooks had an MRI Friday morning after leaving Thursday’s 12-3 loss to the Indians. He already had been dealing with side soreness after colliding with catcher David Ross two weeks ago.
“Our medical staff felt best-case scenario, this was going to be a minimum of probably three to five days just to get ahead of it,” manager John Farrell said. “The fact that we’re a position player short, manpower and his current situation, those combination of factors [determined] this needs to be a DL.”
Farrell said the latest issue stemmed from Middlebrooks’s last at-bat against the White Sox Wednesday, when Middlebrooks slipped leaving the batter’s box.
“He felt a little bit of a stretching sensation or something awkward on that final swing that he took when he grounded the ball out to third base and he was running down the line,” Farrell said. “Then in the two at-bats last night, it continued to tighten up on him. The MRI showed inflammation in that muscle that surrounds either side. So given where we are with the roster position player-wise, we had to make a move and really [it’s] precautionary to Will.”
For Victorino, taking time to heal will put an end to the on-again-off-again status he’s had in recent weeks.
He missed seven days last month with a lower-back strain and had to go to Massachusetts General Hospital to be examined after running into the right-field fence at Fenway May 12.
Allowing himself to get to 100 percent was a better option than continuing to play hurt.
“I’m frustrated, but I think the overall understanding is it’s probably better,” Victorino said. “I don’t want to be that guy and play half a game and have something resurface and then somebody else has got to go and play for me. I’m just not that kind of player and that kind of stuff frustrates me. I never want to have to put somebody in that situation.”
Victorino is as aggressive in the outfield as he is skilled, and his body has paid the price for it this season. But he said he can’t change his style of play.
“Playing the game hard is what it’s all about,” Victorino said. “That’s the way I was taught. I’m going to continue to play that way — obviously not with reckless abandon either — but playing with that mentality, playing with that kind of speed. That’s the important part, is understanding we’ve got to be out there, and if I’m going to play I want to be 100 percent.”
Being on the disabled list means Victorino won’t face his former team when the Sox host the Phillies on Monday and Tuesday, then travel to Philadelphia for a two-game set Wednesday and Thursday.
“That’s minimal, but yeah, obviously I was looking forward to going back,” Victorino said. “But that’s part of it. The most important thing is me going out there and getting healthy.
“I’m a Red Sox now. That’s what I’m focused on. But hey, I’m sure I’ll get my due when we get there this week.’’
Iglesias had never played third base before doing it Tuesday night for Triple A Pawtucket and as slick as the 22-year-old is with the glove, he was nervous about it.
He had three days — maybe four — to prepare.
“Everything is new,” he said. “I don’t even know little things like where I should throw, where I should be, but I think I’ll feel a little more comfortable tonight.”
With Middlebrooks on the disabled list, Farrell called on Iglesias to play third Friday night, calling him “the best candidate internally.”
Of course, the way the baseball gods work, the first ball in play — a Jason Kipnis grounder — bounced Iglesias’s way.
He made a clean play on the routine ball.
Iglesias went 1 for 3 with a run scored and no errors in the Red Sox’ 8-1 victory over the Indians.
When he made the decision, Farrell knew it would take some adjusting for Iglesias, who talked with infield coach Brian Butterfield before the game, taking in as much as he could on the fly.
“He’s a very reactionary player,” Farrell said. “He’ll need some guidance in games as far as positioning. Butter has obviously got a system in place to handle that. So he was the guy to throw in.”
His first experience at third with the PawSox was busy. Five balls came his way. He booted the first one but handled the rest with no problems.
“It was fun,” Iglesias said. “I was able to make some plays. It’s different. It’s a lot different. Just see the ball, catch the ball, make the throw and help the team, that’s the bottom line.”
When shortstop Stephen Drew went on the disabled list after being hit in the head with a pitch in spring training, Iglesias started the season on the major league roster and exceeded expectations, hitting .450 in the first six games. Once Drew was healthy, Iglesias was sent to Pawtucket.
There was initially some concern over how he’d handle the demotion, and when he was benched earlier this month for not running out a ground ball those questions came up again. But he said he was better for having sat.
“I think that helped me a lot,” Iglesias said. “I was not in a good situation at that time, emotion or whatever it was. I think [manager] Gary [DiSarcina] and his guys, they did the right thing for me to put my mind in the right place again and that’s where I am.”
Ross ready to play
After going through team and league tests and completing a rehab assignment Thursday with Double A Portland, catcher Ross was activated from the seven-day concussion disabled list. Ryan Lavarnway was sent to Pawtucket.
Ross said he expects to catch Jon Lester on Saturday.
After taking two foul balls off his mask in a May 11 loss to the Blue Jays, he left in the ninth inning.
Initially, he said, he didn’t feel the full effects, but they came on later.
“Just really tired, lethargic, a lot of bright lights were just really damaging, but everything feels better,” Ross said. “I went on a rehab assignment, played well, felt fine, everything’s been good since. So it’s just nice to feel normal.”
Needing extra arms after Ryan Demspter’s three-inning start Thursday night, Aceves was recalled from Pawtucket and pitched the ninth inning Friday night. He will be used mostly as a multi-inning reliever, Farrell said.
“Given the short start [Thursday], we needed a pitcher in the short term. At some point, we’d like to get back to a balance of 12 pitchers and 13 position players.”
After being demoted April 25, Aceves made four starts in Pawtucket, never going fewer than five innings.Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.