FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Red Sox took two more steps toward finalizing their Opening Day roster Monday morning, optioning infielder Bobby Dalbec to Triple A Worcester and reassigning catcher Jorge Alfaro to the minor leagues.
That likely means Yu Chang will make the team as a backup infielder, with Connor Wong as the backup catcher to Reese McGuire.
Chang did not report to camp until Friday after playing for Taiwan in the World Baseball Classic. But the Sox believe enough in his defensive abilities to include him on the roster. That Chang is out of minor league options also played a role in the decision.
Wong missed much of camp with a strained left hamstring but has recovered. He is a better defensive catcher than Alfaro, a 29-year-old journeyman.
Alfaro had the right to opt out of his contract but decided to accept a spot in Worcester.
The Sox have two decisions remaining. It appears either Jarren Duran or Raimel Tapia will be the fifth outfielder, and the final spot in the bullpen is still to be determined. Righthander Kaleb Ort is a candidate. Manager Alex Cora indicated the Sox are pursuing external options.
“There are a lot of guys out there,” he said. “If we see an opportunity to take advantage of, we’ll do it. If not, we’ll stay in-house.”
Dalbec, 27, was disappointed after hitting .304 with an .813 OPS in 18 Grapefruit League games while showing the team he could play shortstop.
“It stings. I felt like I controlled what I could,” Dalbec said.
That Dalbec didn’t hit well over the last week didn’t help. But he understood at the beginning of camp that the Red Sox would likely favor a more traditional utility player like Chang.
“You can’t play GM, that doesn’t work,” Dalbec said.
Said Cora, “It’s hard, right? The optics are that Bobby was here the whole time . . . but we knew this was a possibility.”
Cora said the plan is for Dalbec to play all four infield positions at Worcester.
Dalbec had an .819 OPS with 33 home runs and 94 RBIs over 156 games as a first baseman from 2020-21. He struggled last season, losing his job in August before being demoted for three weeks in September.
Dalbec impressed in camp but it was not enough with Triston Casas now established as the starter at first base.
“I’m an everyday player,” Dalbec said. “I’ve never not thought that and I never will think that. Obviously I want to help the team win any way I can. If that’s my role, that’s my role and I’ll embrace it.”
Tapia is in camp on a minor league contract and has the right to opt out if he is not added to the 40-man roster before Opening Day.
He said his agent, Miguel Alvarez, is investigating what opportunities exist with other teams, if any.
“I don’t know exactly what he’s doing, but that is part of his job,” Tapia said via a translator. “I’m sure he’s doing his thing, calling different people. The only thing I can do is make a case for myself.”
Tapia has hit .317 with a .963 OPS in 16 spring games while playing all three outfield spots.
“Of course, this is for me the best spring training I’ve had in my career,” he said. “I’ve showed them a lot.”
Tapia appeared in 261 games the last two seasons for the Rockies and Blue Jays, posting a .687 OPS with 1.3 bWAR.
Duran has a career .622 OPS with -0.8 bWAR over 91 games.
That the Sox do not have any openings on the 40-man roster plays in Duran’s favor.
“Whatever decision we make, it’s going to be the right one for the roster right now,” Cora said.
Can Houck flip it?
Tanner Houck is confident he’ll be ready when his name is called Sunday for his first start of the season.
“When lights flip on Sunday and you know, flight might flip on Thursday and you see the flyover, you’ll know it’s go time and everyone is off to the races,” Houck said following his start against the Braves Monday in North Port.
In his final spring training contest, Houck pitched three innings, yielding six runs (all earned) and three homers, as the Red Sox lost, 6-1. Overall this spring, Houck yielded nine homers in six starts (20⅓ innings), compiling a 9.74 ERA. For context, he has allowed just eight homers in 146 career big league innings.
“You said it. He’s allowed eight in his career,” Cora said. “So hopefully it’s nothing that translates to the season. I’m just worried about the strike throwing part of it.”
Houck walked 10 batters this spring and was responsible for five hits batsmen. Yet if there’s a Red Sox player who could do that, it would be Houck, who has the ability to forget about past results while still acknowledging they weren’t good.
“In this game, you kind of have to have the mind of a goldfish,” said Houck, referencing the comedy-drama series “Ted Lasso.”
But will Houck remain a starter? Garrett Whitlock (hip) will pitch Opening Day in Worcester. Brayan Bello is about a week behind Whitlock. When the Sox add those two back to the rotation, Houck (or Nick Pivetta) might be better served in the bullpen.
Nevertheless, the Red Sox might be inclined to see if Houck can figure it out in his current role. Keep in mind, Houck spent a lot of the offseason recovering from back surgery, which could be a reason why he struggled mechanically in camp.
“Obviously, we’re not where we want to be,” Cora said. “But when the lights go on and the third day comes into play on Sunday, hopefully that gets him in the right place.”
Ryan Brasier (illness) was away from camp Monday . . . Whitlock was named the team’s Jimmy Fund captain for the season to aid in fund-raising efforts . . . Tapia went 2 for 4 with a walk, a stolen base, and a solo homer during a High A Greenville contest Monday.