TORONTO — The Red Sox are sorting through options for struggling Rick Porcello, trying to decide when he starts next. But the best news for Porcello may be the return of catcher Ryan Hanigan to the roster.
The two met on Thursday before the Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 12-6, and Hanigan feels progress was made.
“Saw a lot of video. I have some ideas about some things, I don’t want to get too much into it, but we talked today quite a bit,” Hanigan said. “We’re going to try a few things and see where we’re at.”
Hanigan last caught Porcello on April 29 against Toronto. Porcello allowed one run on two hits over seven innings. On Wednesday against the Jays he gave up seven runs in two innings.
Porcello is 4-9 with a 6.08 earned run average, the highest in the American League.
“I went back to that game and we talked about some things and we’ll see,” Hanigan said. “He’s just in a little funk right now. I’m sure it’s mentally tough for him and that’s the biggest task. His stuff is there.”
Before Hanigan went on the disabled list on May 2, he caught Porcello three times. The righthander had a 3.79 ERA and opponents hit .200 with a .587 OPS in those games.
In nine games caught by Blake Swihart, Porcello has a 5.63 ERA and opponents an .828 OPS. Porcello has a 9.29 ERA in four games caught by Sandy Leon with opponents compiling a .974 OPS. Leon was behind the plate on Wednesday.
The Red Sox are 11-7 with Hanigan behind the plate, 26-27 otherwise with the two rookies. Hanigan, a trusted veteran, could be able to get Porcello back to trusting his two-seam fastball and using his best pitches in important situations.
Porcello’s regular turn would come on Tuesday against Houston.
“That’s one [option]. There’s one that could put him with a couple of days of additional rest,” manager John Farrell said. “Part of it too will be the matchups.”
The Red Sox could push Porcello to Wednesday against the Astros and have him pitch only one game before the All-Star break. That would allow them to use Eduardo Rodriguez, Clay Buchholz and Wade Miley against the Yankees July 10-12.
The Sox are unlikely to shut down Porcello until after the All-Star break.
“The one thing you don’t want to do is have such a prolonged down time. Let’s say there’s a two-and-a-half week break, you’re going to have to really pull back what would be available to you inside of one game, number of pitches thrown,” Farrell said.
Hanigan was out with a broken finger on his right hand, the result of a foul tip on May 1. He has worked since on keeping his throwing hand in a safer position.
For years, Hanigan kept his hand up to aid in blocking balls in the dirt.
“Obviously that’s the biggest work in progress. Truthfully, it is a little bit of a change,” he said. “I looked at a lot of video of myself over the years and video of a lot of catchers and how they protect their hands. There are ways to do it to feel comfortable.”
Said Farrell: “He took a look at the way Christian [Vazquez] sets up, where [his right hand] sits behind his glove. Not on the back of the glove, but protected by the glove rather than outside of his right knee.”
Hanigan left his hand exposed at times on Thursday and acknowledged it’s not easy to change.
“It’ll get there,” he said. “I know I have to be careful.”
For now, the Sox have three catchers. But that’s only temporary, as either Swihart or Leon will come off the roster.
Leon is out of minor league options, so Swihart could return to Triple A Pawtucket to maintain the team’s depth.
“We don’t anticipate staying with that alignment too much going forward,” Farrell said.
To make room for Hanigan on the roster, righthanded reliever Jonathan Aro was optioned to Pawtucket. Aro, a 24-year-old rookie, appeared in three games. He allowed six runs on 12 hits over 4⅔ innings.
Victorino ready to go
Outfielder Shane Victorino has completed a six-game minor league rehabilitation assignment and will be ready to be activated off the disabled list on Friday before the Red Sox play the Astros.
Victorino has been out since May 24 with a strained left calf. The Sox plan to use lefthanded hitting Alejandro De Aza and the righthanded hitting Victorino as a platoon in right field.
“There are probably a couple of things soon to take place roster-wise,” Farrell said.
The Red Sox are satisfied that Victorino is physically prepared for the majors. The 34-year-old has been dealing with a variety of injuries for two seasons.
“In terms of flat-out running speed and intensity, that test has been passed,” Farrell said.
Still, the Sox plan to carefully ration Victorino’s playing time, particularly on consecutive days.
The Sox signed two 16-year-old outfielders from Venezuela, Simon Muzziotti and Albert Guaimaro, on the first day of the international signing period, according to MLB.com. Both agreed to $300,000 bonuses, the maximum the Sox were allowed after exceeding spending limits last year.
Houston outfielder George Springer accompanied the team to Boston but he is on the disabled list with a fractured right wrist suffered on Wednesday when he was hit by a pitch. Springer is from New Britain Conn., and played at the University of Connecticut with Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes. The two are close friends . . . Daniel Nava started a rehabilitation assignment with Pawtucket, going 1 for 3 with two strikeouts against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He has been out since May 26 with a strained left thumb. Nava will play first base and outfield with the PawSox . . . Dustin Pedroia took batting practice on the field for the first time since straining his right hamstring on June 24. He is not yet running, however . . . . Pawtucket lefty Brian Johnson was voted to the International League All-Star Team for the Triple A All-Star Game on July 15 in Omaha. PawSox manager Kevin Boles will be on the coaching staff.