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Having Hanley Ramirez at first base gives Red Sox some flexibility

Hanley Ramirez made his fourth start of the season at first base on Thursday.Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

When the Red Sox signed Mitch Moreland to a one-year, $5.5 million contract in the offseason, they expected the hard-nosed, Gold Glove-winning first baseman to bring pop to the lineup against righthanded pitchers. But the plan was to still have Hanley Ramirez play first against lefties.

Once spring training rolled around, a shoulder injury kept Ramirez from playing in the field.

The hope was that Ramirez would eventually be healthy enough to play first. But over the first three months of the season, Ramirez made just two appearances there.

The unique circumstances of playing 76 innings in the first six days after the All-Star break made it more imperative for Ramirez to play in the field, especially with the Sox carrying an extra pitcher on the 25-man roster.


Ramirez made his third start at first on Tuesday and played all 15 innings against the Blue Jays. After being given Wednesday off, he was back on the bag in Thursday’s series finale with Toronto.

That gave manager John Farrell the flexibility to give another day off to Moreland, who’s been playing through an injured toe, and slot Dustin Pedroia at DH for a small degree of rest. Moreland pinch hit Thursday and is tied for second on the team in games this season with 90.

“We felt like the balance of the roster, a big part of that was Hanley’s ability to [play] first base,” Farrell said. “Now that he’s doing that, that gets a much-needed day off for Mitch. It gives us the ability to carry the extra pitcher where otherwise we might not be able to — or might not be in an ideal spot to do that. The versatility among our guys is a big key and Brock [Holt] and Hanley and their multiposition abilities is pivotal.”

Four days removed from coming off the disabled list, Holt filled in at second base Thursday. The utilityman’s return couldn’t have been more timely. Over the past week, the Sox have used 14 different position players and 18 different pitchers.


“His absence was felt for quite a while,” Farrell said of Holt. “And I think the fact that we’ve got a few guys that we can move around, the versatility certainly helps when you’re carrying an extra pitcher. So more than anything, trying to balance, get guys off their feet, a little bit different position to just try to weather the number of innings that they’ve put in.”

He’s working out

In a stretch when the Sox needed as much bullpen depth as possible, Farrell could only describe the resurgence of Brandon Workman as “found money.”

Workman on Thursday made his fourth appearance since being called up from Triple A Pawtucket on July 15, allowing two hits and a run over two innings while striking out three. Over six innings since his recall he’s given up two runs and four hits and has flashed a fastball in the mid-90s.

“If we’re going to put Brandon Workman in and feel like he’s pre-surgery levels, this is a guy who also pitched the eighth inning of Game 6 of a World Series,” Farrell said. “So, [I’ve] never questioned his ability to challenge hitters, and what we’re seeing is a guy who’s maybe understanding himself better as a pitcher after going through what he has. And now with the physical stuff returning, he’s more advanced now than he’s ever been.”


Slow the thought

In the offseason, Major League Baseball mulled a proposal that would dramatically change how extra innings are played. The suggestion was to have teams start every extra inning with a runner on second base.

It’s a measure to address pace-of-play issues and it was used in the World Baseball Classic in March.

But even after playing a 16-inning game last Saturday, a doubleheader Sunday, and a 15-inning game Tuesday, Farrell said he couldn’t get behind such a radical switch.

“Maybe it’s more of a traditional view on my part, I’m still in favor of the way the game currently is with extra innings,” Farrell said. “If you’re equipped to handle those, whether you’ve got bullpen depth or you’ve got the ability to have starters go deep into games the following day, I think then it becomes an advantage to you. Personally, I wouldn’t be in favor of a change of the international rule.”

Xander Bogaerts throws his helmet in frustration after striking out with a runner on first to end the seventh inning.JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

Bogaerts in lineup

Xander Bogaerts returned to the lineup after missing two straight starts because of a right hand contusion (though he pinch ran Tuesday, after having an MRI). “I wouldn’t say [he’s] 100 percent,” Farrell said, “but enough.” . . . The Sox hope to have Joe Kelly throw a bullpen session during their upcoming six-game road trip through Anaheim and Seattle. He’s been on the DL since July 15 with a strained left hamstring. Blaine Boyer, also on the DL (right elbow strain), is expected to get back on the mound in the coming days.


Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @julianbenbow.