The Boston Red Sox need to make decisions.
Four players are eligible to come off the disabled list soon: Pitchers Felix Doubront and Clay Buchholz, third baseman Will Middlebrooks and right fielder Shane Victorino. Doubront and Victorino could be back as early as this weekend. Other players must be shifted to make room.
Boston has been stuck in the mud all year, unable to get on a roll and surge to the front of the American League East (or at least among AL wild-card contenders). The Red Sox could be bold and cautious at the same time – gambling on making a run while ensuring the future.
Here is one observer’s 11-point plan. Why 11? Because I had 12 points, before the Red Sox implemented one of them Tuesday, designating Grady Sizemore for assignment.
Waiving Sizemore was No. 2 on my list (which is not necessarily ranked by importance).
• No. 1 is to activate outfielder Victorino. He brings superb defense and energy to the lineup. Whether he can bring offense is the question. He batted .242 in his 21 games this year. And now that he is not switch-hitting, he’s hitting only .212 against right-handed pitching. But he has a track record and deserves time to put it together.
• No. 2 was to waive Sizemore to make room for Victorino. Boston already has one left-handed outfielder who is an outstanding fielder (Jackie Bradley Jr.) and another who is getting hot (Daniel Nava was batting .404 in his last 10 games entering Tuesday).
• No. 3: Make Mookie Betts a regular outfielder in Pawtucket. With Sizemore gone, Betts may be the best insurance in center if anything happens to Bradley, although Brock Holt keeps proving he can play every position on the field. Still, Betts is a spark plug. Don’t rule him out joining this team late summer.
• No. 4: Activate Doubront. This is a no-brainer since he is likely to fill in for Brandon Workman this weekend, if Workman must serve a suspension for throwing at Evan Longoria (whether intentional or not). Doubront is a huge talent. If he shows signs of turning it around, Boston’s rotation becomes relentless.
• No. 5: Trade Jake Peavy. He helped Boston down the stretch last year and some contending team will want him. Peavy is 1-4 with a 4.53 ERA. His WHIP (walks/hit per inning) is at a career high of 1.44. Unloading Peavy gets Boston either salary relief or (if Boston has to pay the rest of his $14.5-million salary) possibly a prospect. It also makes room for Boston’s young pitchers, such as Workman.
• No. 6: Keep Middlebrooks in Pawtucket. He shows signs of promise, like when he batted .406 in August last year, but also has proven that he is not ready to be consistent. Let Middlebrooks work on his mechanics for an extended period of time. It also wouldn’t hurt for him to get playing time in the outfield and at first base.
• No. 7: Ensure Clay Buchholz is absolutely ready before activating him. Buchholz said he was ready after only one rehab outing (42/3 innings, four hits, three runs), but the Red Sox wisely scheduled him for another start with Pawtucket Thursday night. If he needs a third start, make him pitch a third. If he needs to remain on the disabled list, keep him there.
• No. 8: Send down Rubby De La Rosa, only if both Doubront and Buchholz are solid.
• No. 9: Trade catcher A.J. Pierzynski. This would be the most radical move, given that Boston is struggling offensively and Pierzynski is second on the team in RBI. But Pierzynski’s on-base percentage is no better than Nava’s or Bradley’s, and he is a defensive liability. A veteran catcher like him might bring a decent prospect in return.
• No. 10: Call up catcher Christian Vazquez. One reason to trade Pierzynski is to make room for Vazquez, deemed one of Boston’s future catchers. But Vazquez is in his second year on the 40-man roster and has yet to see the majors. Now is his time. And David Ross would be a wonderful mentor.
• No. 11: Put Matt Barnes in the Pawtucket bullpen. He relieved Buchholz the other night and looked good. Barnes may eventually be a major league starter, but may help Boston more with his electric fastball in the later innings.
• No. 12: Promote pitcher Henry Owens, catcher Blake Swihart and shortstop Deven Marrero to Pawtucket by July. Owens’ change-up is unhittable in Double-A. He needs to move up (and a spot would open with Barnes in the bullpen). Swihart, like Vazquez, is in Boston’s future. Marrero could be a September call-up this year, with a chance of playing in Boston next season.
Boston can win now. The Red Sox can also keep building its future.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or at: