Ryan Roberts may be the most heavily tattooed player in baseball, but the only tattooing the Red Sox care about is the kind he might do by hitting baseballs off the Green Monster in the absence of Will Middlebrooks.
The Red Sox signed the 33-year-old journeyman, who played for the Tampa Bay Rays last season, to a one-year, $1 million deal — with a $200,000 payout if he spends the remainder of the season in the minors after Middlebrooks comes off the disabled list.
The move means that, for the time being, the Red Sox are not interested in re-signing Stephen Drew, even though Xander Bogaerts has had a couple of shaky moments in the field already.
To make room on the roster, the Red Sox sent Brock Holt back to Pawtucket and placed knuckleballer Steven Wright on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from a sports hernia.
Manager John Farrell said Roberts, who is out of minor league options, will platoon at third base, likely with Jonathan Herrera. It’s not clear whether the Red Sox would dare put Mike Carp there, though Carp worked out at third base in spring training.
“I’m blessed to be here and a part of this organization,” said Roberts, a righthanded hitter with a .266 lifetime average against lefthanded pitching. “I’ve played against the Red Sox for a few years and hopefully I can add anything they need. I’ve been fortunate to play everywhere. Hopefully my versatility can play a part in what they need.”
Roberts can play third, shortstop, second, and left field.
“Fenway is a great place to hit,” he said. “You can miss a ball and still get a hit out of it. I’m not looking to pepper the ball. I just want to stay in the middle of the field and stay with my approach.
“I’ve been fortunate to play everywhere. I feel comfortable everywhere on the diamond. I’m not going to claim to be the best at any position. I make mistakes like everybody.”
Roberts, who has started 195 games at third base, opted out of a minor league deal with the Cubs the final week of spring training. He stayed in Arizona an extra week, then returned home to Dallas for two days. A flurry of activity then began, with teams sniffing around for him.
After Middlebrooks went down, the Red Sox swooped in with the $1 million deal, which is not guaranteed. If Roberts hangs around for the two weeks Middlebrooks may be out, he could earn about $80,000 during that time frame.
“It’s like that Bud Light commercial where they take him on a wild and crazy journey,” he said. “It’s been like my deal here. It’s been a crazy journey and it’s been an experience that I’ve never dealt with before.
“It’s long days. The days sometimes go by really fast, but my days went by really slow. It’s been a nice ride and learning experience and hopefully just take every day with sound mind, calmness, and trust that God is going to put me in a position to be put on the right team.”
He also told a bizarre story of how his vision improved when spring training began.
“I had astigmatism in both eyes,” he said. “My left eye is 20-15. My right eye was 20-25. I had contact lenses that I couldn’t wear and glasses, but I didn’t wear them. I went into spring training and my eyesight [according to testing] in my left is 20/14.2 and my right 20/14.3. I didn’t do anything. Same old routine.”
Roberts said he probably couldn’t add a Red Sox tattoo to his assortment; he believes there is a major league rule that prohibits it.
Farrell cautioned not to read into the signing of Roberts that Middlebrooks might be out longer than expected. He said Middlebrooks’s calf has shown improvement, and he continues to undergo therapy.
The Rangers challenged a call on a force play at second base in the first inning of the Red Sox’ 5-1 win Monday night.
Daniel Nava was ruled safe when shortstop Elvis Andrus dropped the ball while transferring it from his glove to make the relay throw to first. Texas manager Ron Washington argued that Andrus had possession long enough to get the forceout.
The replay took 1 minute 48 seconds and the call was upheld. David Ortiz reached first on the play. However, Mike Napoli followed with an inning-ending double play ground out.
Farrell said Shane Victorino, who is on the DL with a right hamstring injury, is improving. Victorino has also been ill, and though his symptoms are improving, the manager still doesn’t want him infecting anyone on the team. Farrell said Victorino is doing more physical activity, and in the next few days the team should have a better idea of when he will begin a rehab assignment . . . Concerning Bogaerts’s defense so far, Farrell defended the rookie. “I think he’s given us probably a little bit more than we anticipated,” said Farrell. “It’s not that we had lower expectations. There was a ball [Sunday] that he gets caught a little bit in the 5-6 hole with his forehand where he could have planted and gone with his backhand. But the range has been good. I think he’s playing very well.” . . . The Rangers put starter Joe Saunders on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised left foot . . . Bobby Doerr turned 96 Monday . . . Craig Breslow made a rehab start for Pawtucket Monday vs. Syracuse, pitching a perfect inning. It was his third appearance for the PawSox in five days . . . It’s likely Ortiz’s fault that some US Olympians were told to keep their cellphones in their pockets while visiting the White House last week. Ortiz famously took a selfie with President Obama using his cellphone while the Red Sox had their championship ceremony in Washington last week, and was accused by some as doing it as a marketing ploy for Samsung, the maker of his phone. The White House confirmed that the Olympians were asked not to take their own photos with Obama, but insisted there was no outright prohibition of selfies.Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.