The Red Sox made a minor trade to improve their infield depth on Saturday night, obtaining 38-year-old John McDonald from the Phillies for pitching prospect Nefi Ogando.
McDonald is a native of Lyme, Conn., who played at Providence College and now lives in Scituate. This is the fourth time he has been traded since March 20.
McDonald offers defensive versatility off the bench given his extensive experience at shortstop, second base and third base. He has spent 15 years in the majors with six teams.
“He’s a premium defender at all three positions,” said manager John Farrell, who managed McDonald in Toronto in 2011. “He’ll serve as depth, particularly in the middle of the infield. We’ve been looking out for this kind of player.”
McDonald is 6 for 61 (.098) this season with two extra-base hits and four RBIs. He is a career .235 hitter.
McDonald started this season with Arizona. He was traded to the Pirates in spring training, then went to the Indians (June 10) and Phillies (June 27).
McDonald is expected to join the Red Sox on Sunday. Righthanded reliever Alex Wilson was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to create a spot on the 40-man roster.
Ogando is a 24-year-old righthander. He had a 4.09 earned run average in 33 relief appearances this season in Single A ball.
Major League rosters can expand starting on Sunday. With Triple A Pawtucket returning to the International League playoffs, the Red Sox are planning to add only three or four call-ups immediately with others to follow.
Farrell said the Sox would add at least a pitcher, a catcher, and an infielder initially.
The Red Sox will get a look at newly acquired outfielder Quintin Berry, who they plan to use as a pinch-running specialist. His activation will require another move with the 40-man roster.
Catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who has played 19 games with the Sox, is expected to return. Third baseman Brandon Snyder could come off the disabled list.
Buchholz in playoffs
Clay Buchholz will start for Pawtucket in a playoff game on Wednesday. The hope is he will throw 70-75 pitches over five innings. That would have him ready to come off the disabled list.
Buchholz went 3⅓ innings and 54 pitches for Pawtucket on Friday night. The righthander has been out since early June with a shoulder injury.
Farrell said the Sox were pleased with how Buchholz looked on Friday, particularly his velocity. His speed getting back to Fenway Park was impressive, too. Buchholz was in uniform and in the Fenway dugout before the end of the game against the White Sox.
The PawSox started only an hour earlier than the Red Sox did.
“That’s a good question,” Farrell said when asked how Buchholz was able to return so quickly. “I sure as hell don’t know.”
Buchholz laughed and said only that he avoided the holiday weekend traffic.
Through Friday, Will Middlebrooks had a .431 on-base percentage in the 18 games he had played since being recalled from Triple A Pawtucket. That’s likely not a sustainable number, but it’s a sign of how his approach at the plate has been refined this season.
Middlebrooks had a .228 OBP in the 53 games he played before being demoted. He has seen roughly the same number of pitches per plate appearance in his two stints, but what has changed is the kind of pitches Middlebrooks is swinging at.
“I’m looking for certain pitches in a certain spot. Not just a certain pitch,” Middlebrooks said. “I’m being more selective depending on the pitcher and what the situation is. The situation should dictate what you do.”
Middlebrooks had success as a rookie looking for fastballs and using his athletic ability to make contact. But scouting reports caught up to him this season.
“When you’re an aggressive hitter, you’re looking for something over the plate and that’s what I did,” Middlebrooks said. “But you can’t get away with that for long. It works for a while and then people figure you out.
“You can still be aggressive. But you have to be selectively aggressive.”
Middlebrooks walked nine times in his first 216 plate appearances this season. Since coming back from Pawtucket on Aug. 10, he walked eight times in 65 plate appearances.
“This game is about scoring runs and you can’t score runs if you aren’t on base. I had to improve on that,” Middlebrooks said. “Especially being at the bottom of this lineup. The top of our lineup is hitting the ball and they’re going to drive guys in. I’m trying to work into good counts and take the walk if it’s there.”
Farrell said Middlebrooks’s improved approach at the plate is noticeable in several ways.
Physically, his stance is more squared up to the plate and that allows him to pick up the ball better. Middlebrooks also is more at ease.
“He’s not over-aggressive to try and make up for a previous at-bat,” Farrell said. “That says there’s more of a confident hitter at the plate.”
Tigers on deck
The Red Sox host the Detroit Tigers for a three-game series starting on Monday. The teams are competing for the best record in the American League, which would bring with it home field advantage through the postseason.
Detroit third baseman Miguel Cabrera could be questionable for the series because of an abdominal strain. He left Friday’s game in the second inning and was not in the lineup on Saturday night.
Cabrera is hitting .358 with a 1.130 OPS, 43 home runs, and 130 RBIs. He was 8 for 15 with four walks and four RBIs in a four-game series against the Sox earlier this season.
The Red Sox assigned Daniel Bard to Lowell and he pitched an inning on Saturday. Bard walked four of the six batters he faced, struck out two and threw a wild pitch as his control issues continued. The Rookie League Spinners have four games remaining and Bard could appear again. “We don’t want to take that motivation away from him,” Farrell said . . . Mike Carp was available off the bench after being out two days with a sore left shoulder but didn’t play . . . Righthander Anthony Ranaudo was named the Eastern League pitcher of the year. He was 8-4 with a 2.95 ERA for Portland before his promotion to Pawtucket on Aug. 2. Ranaudo was a supplemental first round pick in 2010 . . . The courageous John Odom, a Marathon bombing victim from California, walked to the mound to deliver the game ball and received a huge ovation from the crowd. Odom, the father-in-law of Revolution goalie Matt Reis, had 11 surgeries, twice went into cardiac arrest and was unconscious for four weeks.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.