BALTIMORE — The Red Sox added to their almost nonexistent outfield depth on Wednesday with the signing of 36-year-old free agent Andres Torres to a minor league contract.
Torres has reported to Single A Lowell and could play some games for the Spinners before being assigned to Triple A Pawtucket. Lowell opens the New York-Penn League season at home on Friday.
A veteran of nine major league seasons, Torres ended last season on the disabled list with a strained left Achilles’ tendon that required surgery. He was recently cleared to play.
“He’ll begin that progression and then give us the potential for some outfield depth,” manager John Farrell said. “Recognizing there’s an injury in which he’s coming back from, everything in his workouts right now suggests this is a worthy situation to take a look at. That’s where it ends, to try and create as many options as possible for this team.”
Torres, a switch-hitter, is a career .242 hitter with a .699 OPS. But he has hit .265 with a .737 OPS against lefthanders. If Torres is able to make a comeback, he could provide the Red Sox with a platoon partner for lefthanded-hitting center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
“We have looked at all options to complement the majority of our lefthanded-hitting outfielders,” Farrell said. “This is one guy that has that track record, who fits that criteria.”
Torres was a valuable player for the San Francisco Giants from 2009-10, hitting .269 with 22 home runs and 86 RBIs over 214 games. He started every game in center field for the Giants in the 2010 postseason as San Francisco won the World Series.
But Torres has hit only .232 since with nine home runs in 994 at-bats. The Giants traded Torres to the Mets before the 2012 season. San Francisco then signed Torres after the Mets nontendered him.
The Red Sox aren’t sure when Torres will be ready to return to the majors.
“I don’t think we have a clear-cut time frame for this one. That’s not to suggest that Andres comes in ahead of where our initial thoughts are. There’s no prescribed date that’s a make-or-break,” Farrell said.
Through Tuesday, Red Sox outfielders had a .672 OPS. Only the Chicago White Sox were lower in baseball and that was by percentage points.
Right fielder Shane Victorino, who has not played since May 23 because of a strained right hamstring, is expected to start a rehabilitation assignment with Pawtucket this weekend.
Victorino ran the bases during batting practice on Wednesday at Camden Yards and looked good.
“The last couple of days have been encouraging, things have ramped up quite a bit,” Farrell said.
Because Victorino started the season on the DL with a right hamstring strain, the Sox will be cautious in building him back up. Farrell also said regular days off would be scheduled once Victorino does return.
Farrell said the Red Sox were “open-minded” to the idea of Victorino playing center field at some point.
Middlebrooks to rehab
Third baseman Will Middlebrooks will join Pawtucket on Friday and be in the lineup as the designated hitter. He has been on the DL since May 17 with a fractured right index finger.
Middlebrooks is able to swing the bat and field ground balls. But he needs more flexibility with that finger to throw.
“He swung the bat in a BP session [on Tuesday] very well,” Farrell said. “We’re still working to get full range of motion and I’m sure there will be some exam of that finger just to ensure that once he initiates a throwing program more in earnest, there’s not going to be any pushback. He’s coming along OK.”
Drew sits again
Shortstop Stephen Drew missed his third consecutive game with a sore oblique muscle on his right side. The Red Sox also weren’t going to start him against lefthander Wei-Yin Chen.
“He’s never dealt with an oblique before,” Farrell said. “This is something he really doesn’t have anything to gauge or compare against and we don’t [want] to risk and turn it into anything more prolonged.”
Drew took batting practice on Wednesday and ground balls on the field. There is a chance he will play his first game at Fenway Park of the season on Thursday.
“It’s a possibility,” Farrell said.
Clay Buchholz starts his rehab assignment with Pawtucket on Friday and Felix Doubront continues his assignment with a start for the PawSox on Sunday. Buchholz is out with a knee injury and Doubront with a shoulder strain.
Once Buchholz is deemed ready, and that could be after one start, he will return to the rotation.
“A fully healthy and performing Clay Buchholz, that’s someone we don’t want pitching in Pawtucket,” Farrell said.
But Doubront may need to prove himself in the minors. With Brandon Workman pitching well, the Red Sox can afford to be patient with the lefthander.
“I would prioritize his overall command and the ability to make adjustments from pitch to pitch if those are needed or required,” Farrell said.
“I think Felix has shown us that if he’s pitching in the 90-mile-per-hour range, he’s been successful. It’s location in the strike zone that’s allowed that. That’s what’s being addressed and focused on here as well, trying to get the arm strength and show the life in the arm that he showed prior to going down.”
Farrell and Francona
Farrell let it slip a few weeks ago and Major League Baseball made it official on Wednesday by naming Cleveland manager Terry Francona and Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire to the All-Star Game coaching staff for the American League. Farrell also will have his Red Sox coaches . . . Left fielder (and third baseman and first baseman) Brock Holt turned 26 on Wednesday. He shared a gift box of cupcakes with his teammates before the game . . . Koji Uehara played for Baltimore from 2009 until he was dealt to Texas at the 2011 trade deadline. In 15 games since against the Orioles (through Tuesday), Uehara has allowed one run on seven hits over 13⅔ innings with two walks and 18 strikeouts. In nine appearances since at Camden Yards, Uehara has thrown 8⅓ scoreless innings and struck out 11 without a walk.