Yu Chang, who was named MVP of Pool A while playing for Chinese Taipei in the World Baseball Classic, has been delayed in his return to spring training because of visa issues. Adam Hunger/Associated Press

Yu Chang is one of several ballplayers competing for a spot on the Red Sox roster, but unlike the others, he’ll have less than a week to make his case.

On Monday morning, Alex Cora told reporters that visa issues have delayed Chang’s arrival. He’s now expected to arrive Thursday, exactly one week before Opening Day.

The versatile infielder played for Chinese Taipei, who was mathematically eliminated (due to Pool A’s five-team tie) in the first round of the World Baseball Classic. Though he hasn’t played in over a week and wasn’t at spring training prior to the tournament, he won’t be starting from scratch when he arrives. Sources tell the Boston Herald that since Chang was playing at a high level in the World Baseball Classic, it shouldn’t be long before he sees some action.

But including his estimated day of arrival, all that stands between the Red Sox and their first game of the regular season are six Grapefruit League games and a day off on March 29.

And in addition to racing against time, Chang is competing against Bobby Dalbec for that infield bench spot on the roster, but each player brings something different to the table, making neither a clear frontrunner.

In terms of power, both have impressed over the last few weeks, albeit in very different settings.


Dalbec is hitting .306/.390/.611 with 11 hits, four doubles, two triples, a home run, nine runs scored, and four RBI in 14 spring training games. He’s drawn five walks and struck out 14 times.

Despite his team’s early exit from the tournament, Chang was named MVP of his pool. He went 7 for 16 with a pair of doubles, a home run, a grand slam, and eight RBI.

Spring training and the real thing are completely different animals, though, and the 27-year-old Dalbec had a rough 2022. In 117 games, Dalbec struck out 118 times for a 34.9% strikeout rate, or 12% above league average, and he was in the third percentile in strikeout rate. While he drew more walks, his Isolated Power (ISO) plummeted from .254 the season before, to .155.

Dalbec struggled to such an extent that the Red Sox acquired Eric Hosmer to supplant him at the trade deadline. Then, in September, they demoted Dalbec to Triple-A to open a roster spot for fellow first baseman Triston Casas to make his debut.

With Trevor Story out for at least the first few months of the upcoming season, the Red Sox made Kiké Hernández the everyday shortstop, and are relying on Christian Arroyo to make regular starts at second base. Casas is still a rookie, with less than a month’s worth of big-league play under his belt, and Rafael Devers’ defense can be brilliant, but is inconsistent.

In other words, the infield needs reliable backup, and Dalbec’s defense, or lack thereof, hurts his case. He came up as a third baseman, but moved to first because he was blocked by Devers. Now, Casas has emerged as this year’s starting first baseman, so Dalbec has been edged out on that side, too. The Red Sox spent the spring using Dalbec all over the infield, trying to figure out where he fits into the equation, but he’s really the odd man out.


Meanwhile, the Red Sox have sung Chang’s praises in regards to defense, especially in regards to his versatility. He’s worth 0.7 defensive WAR over his four partial seasons in the majors, while Dalbec has minus-2.8 dWAR to his name. Chang was in the 78th percentile in Outs Above Average last year; Dalbec was in the 38th.

Offensively, Chang hasn’t brought much to the table over his big-league career (.213/.279/.360 over 196 games), but the feast-or-famine Dalbec Batting Experience is a risk, too, and not necessarily one worth sacrificing Chang’s defense over. In 273 career regular-season games, Dalbec has hit .232/.298/.456. He slashed .215/.283/.369 in 2022, remarkably similar to Chang’s career numbers.

At this point, Dalbec has a better chance of getting the gig. He offers more power, even if it comes with the caveat of more strikeouts, and the Red Sox need as much power as they can get in a lineup without Story, J.D. Martinez, and Xander Bogaerts.

Grapefruit League work and power potential will only take Dalbec so far, though.

THE RED SOX reassigned five non-roster invitees – catcher Stephen Scott, outfielder Narciso Crook, infielder/outfielder Ryan Fitzgerald and infielders Christian Koss and Nick Sogard – to minor league camp.

Boston has 41 players, including seven non-roster invitees, remaining on its big league spring training roster.

Fitzgerald enjoyed the best spring training of all these five players. He went 6 for 21 (.286) with a .375 on-base percentage, .619 slugging percentage, .994 OPS, one homer, four doubles, four runs and six RBI in 14 Grapefruit League games.

The 28-year-old is expected to begin the season at Triple-A Worcester after playing in 127 games there last season and becoming a fan favorite at Polar Park. Crook also will be on the WooSox’s roster.

Koss, Sogard and Scott all could spend time at both Double-A Portland and Worcester this season.

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