When Blake Swihart sprained his left foot sliding into third base in a loss to the Royals two weeks ago, the Red Sox' options were so slim that Swihart's only choice was to tape the foot up and play through it.
He toughed it out for four games, knowing he and Sandy Leon were the only options at catcher.
But with Ryan Hanigan activated from the 60-day disabled list on Thursday, Swihart could properly tend to his injury. The Sox placed the 23-year-old on the DL Friday, giving him a chance to let the foot heal.
"With Blake, he'd been playing with some pain as we know," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "The injury that he suffered to that small left toe is obviously still there and the symptoms never really subsided. We kind of took a short cut initially to get him back in the lineup but we're afforded the ability to get him some added rest right now."
Farrell said the medical staff recommended that Swihart take time off before looking into any game activity or rehab assignment.
Hanigan's injury, a fractured right hand suffered in early May, forced the Sox to rush Swihart, one of the top prospects in their farm system, up from Triple-A Pawtucket.
Swihart had been hitting .338 with 11 RBIs in 18 games for the PawSox before being called up on May 2. But with his sudden leap to the big leagues, the learning curve was steep and Swihart is hitting just .241 with one homer, 11 RBIs and 36 strikeouts. Still, he seemed to be finding a rhythm, hitting .364 (8 for 22) in the past six games.
"We saw the at-bats probably when you compare week to week when he was getting pitched certain ways, he was making adjustments the way the opposing pitchers were attacking him, particularly when he was on the left side of the plate. The ability to pull the ball a little bit more was being shown," Farrell said.
When Swihart got to Boston, he had a host of responsibilities waiting for him beyond producing at the plate, no more important than managing a rotation which was struggling.
In two months, he caught 40 games. Sox pitchers had a 4.81 ERA when he was behind the plate.
"For a young guy being thrown game-planning on his plate, executing it, knowing different pitchers, he did an excellent job for being as young as he is and as inexperienced on the big-league level," Farrell said. "His intelligence, his toughness evident by playing with an injury, the ability to keep the game speed under control mentally evident by the conversations between innings.
"There's a lot of positives here with Blake and maybe arriving before his natural time line would suggest. He was thrust into it and did a good job."
Bradley sent down
With Shane Victorino returning from the disabled list, Jackie Bradley Jr. was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
In his second major-league stint of the season, Bradley played six games and hit .211 (4 for 19) with a .273 on base percentage. His home run on June 30 against the Blue Jays was his first since May 31, 2014, ending a drought that lasted 248 at-bats.
His plate appearances at the major league level have been a struggle — he struck out in six of his 19 at-bats in the six games — but in Pawtucket, Bradley's hit .320 with four home runs, 18 doubles and 16 RBIs.
"The numbers are what they are," Farrell said. "But what you do see is a swing path that I think is still more consistent than it was a year ago. That was evident in spring training, he carried it through.
"He hasn't had the production at the big-league level play itself out yet. We know that there's a sizable game between Triple A and here and yet Jackie's still working his way to get his feet on the ground and be a consistent performer here."
Reliever Ramirez added
To add a fresh arm to a taxed bullpen, the Sox called up 25-year-old righthander Noe Ramirez from Pawtucket.
Ramirez has pitched in 16 games for the PawSox this season — all but one in relief duty — going 4-0, 2.42 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 26 innings. He had a four-inning scoreless streak going over his past three appearances, holding opponents to a .077 average.
"He's a righthanded reliever that's been a closer throughout his minor league career," Farrell said of Ramirez, who was taken by the Sox in the fourth round of the 2011 draft and was in spring training both this season and last year as a non-roster invite. "It's a different arm slot. There's some sink to his fastball. And we've had a little bit of turnaround out in that bullpen and some guys pressed into action that we need to get a fresh arm here."
To make room on the 40-man roster, Zeke Spruill was designated for assignment.
Dustin Pedroia, on the disabled list since June 25, is progressing after missing the past nine games with a strained right hamstring. He took swings in the batting cage Friday and is gradually increasing his running, "So he's on the up elevator," Farrell said . . . After going 1 for 3 as a designated hitter for the PawSox on Thursday to begin his rehab assignment, Daniel Nava was back in the lineup in right field Friday night. He's been on the disabled list since May 28 (retroactive to May 26) with a left thumb strain . . . The Sox' 17-20 record at Fenway coming into Friday night was the ninth-worst home record in baseball. They had lost six of their last eight at Fenway, despite having the second-best home batting average in baseball (.302), behind the Yankees. "We need to make Fenway a place that is our true advantage and to date, that hasn't necessarily been the case," Farrell said. "So for us to thrive off the energy that's created by our fans, we need to play to that."