With every arm in the bullpen seeing some action the previous two nights, the Red Sox called up righthander Steven Wright from Triple A Pawtucket on Sunday for the second time this month.
“We’ve leaned on some guys in the bullpen fairly regularly,” manager John Farrell said, “and when we have a couple of starts that go short, we need that length.”
Wright has pitched exclusively as a starter for Pawtucket and Double A Portland this year, going 6-3 with a 2.81 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 14 starts. Last season, though, Wright made three relief appearances for the Red Sox, along with one start, and Farrell said he didn’t expect Wright to have any issues adjusting to a bullpen role.
“The time that he was here last year in the bullpen and the relief appearances that he made for us, he’s able to get ready in a decent amount of time,” Farrell said. “Ideally we’d like to start an inning with him, rather than bringing him into a situation with men on. But we don’t have to plan, let’s say, an inning ahead of time because he’s been a starter. He gets loose relatively quickly.”
Wright, who spent a day with the Sox on Aug. 3 against the Yankees but didn’t get into the game, got in a decent amount of work Sunday. He went the final four innings, allowing a run on four hits while striking out four. The only run he allowed was on Jon Singleton’s home run in the ninth inning.
Wright said attacking the zone and pitching to contact was the key to his success. Six of the outs he recorded came on ground balls.
“I’ve been lucky enough to keep throwing strikes,” said Wright, who didn’t walk a batter. “My whole philosophy this year is contact. I think last year, I got caught up too much trying to get the swing and miss, trying to overthrow. Even though the knuckleball is so good, it was very inconsistent. With my starting point it was harder to keep it in the strike zone.
“So this year since coming back off the DL [in May], my whole goal is just to try to throw as many strikes as I can with the knuckleball and just hopefully it works and gets them to put it in play.”
The Sox designated outfielder Corey Brown for assignment to make room. Brown made three cameos in his two-week stint, pinch hitting against the Reds, coming in as a defensive replacement in the series opener against the Astros, and pinch running for David Ortiz on Saturday.
Room for Nava
Farrell said he’ll find ways to keep the red-hot Daniel Nava in the lineup even as things get crowded with Allen Craig’s imminent return.
Nava went 1 for 4 and drove in Boston’s only run on Sunday. He’s hitting .500 with five doubles and four RBIs in the past five games.
“We’ll be able to keep Daniel with a minimum number of at-bats,” Farrell said. “For as well as he’s swinging the bat, we’re going to find a way to get him in the lineup. Much like we did with Brock Holt earlier, there’ll be a way that we can accommodate all this.”
The Sox hope to have Craig start a rehab assignment as early as Monday. Craig has been on the disabled list since Aug. 5 with a sprained left foot.
Last week, Craig began taking batting practice and shagging fly balls in the outfield. He also took ground balls at first base. Farrell said it’s possible that Craig could see time there, but the priority now is getting him in right field.
“I’m not going to say he won’t see time at first base,” Farrell said. “But right now, our intent is to get him in the outfield regularly and that, at this point, would be in right field.”
Pedroia sits out
Even though he had the day off for his birthday, Dustin Pedroia wasn’t in shape to celebrate.
He had to sit out the series finale against the Astros with a sickness that initially surfaced during Saturday night’s game.
“He’s got some flu-like symptoms going on,” Farrell said. “Felt it during the game last night. Overnight, it worsened to the point he can’t go today at all.”
Pedroia, who turned 31 on Sunday, was in the clubhouse before the game.
“He’s been seen by our doctors and had antibiotics administered,” Farrell said. “So hopefully this is a short-lived situation.”
It was only the third game Pedroia’s missed this season. He’s made a team-high 119 starts this year.
Last year, he played in all but two games.
Any rest Pedroia’s gotten this season has mostly come when Farrell’s pulled him at the end of games.
In Friday’s loss to the Astros, Pedroia fouled a ball off his right foot in his second at-bat but played through it despite walking gingerly the rest of the game until Farrell took him out in the ninth inning.
Mike Napoli got a scheduled day off as well Sunday, giving Kelly Johnson a chance to make his second start at first base for the Sox. Johnson went 1 for 4 with two strikeouts.
After hitting .200 with 12 strikeouts in the first 10 games since the trade deadline, Napoli was hitting .385 in his past four games with a homer and four RBIs.
Hitting after Ortiz and Yoenis Cespedes has its benefits, but Farrell said the recent success has more to do with Napoli getting to pitches on the outside part of the plate rather than pitchers attacking him differently.
“They’re still going to look to attack areas of the strike zone that an advance scouting report would suggest,” Farrell said. “I just think he’s covered some pitches away with more authority of late and that’s where some of the home runs have come into play a little bit more.”
Middlebrooks a hit
Will Middlebrooks went 2 for 4 for his first multi-hit game since April 25 . . . Holt’s 1-for-4 day stretched his hitting streak to 11 games, matching a career high. He’s batting .286 over that stretch . . . The seven-run difference was the Astros’ largest margin of victory ever over the Sox . . . Jose Altuve became the first Astro to have four hits and a grand slam in a game since Jeff Bagwell in 2004.Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.