Needing a fresh arm to bolster a tiring bullpen that has thrown eleven innings over the past two days, the Boston Red Sox have recalled right-hander Alex Wilson from Triple-A Pawtucket. Daniel Nava has been optioned down in a corresponding move, according to WEEI.com’s Alex Speier and Lou Merloni.
Boston had been expected to make a roster move of some kind, with rightfielder Shane Victorino seemingly ready to be activated from the disabled list after completing a rehab assignment, and Nava, Mike Carp, and Jackie Bradley Jr. have all been options to be sent down or shipped out at various points. Bradley’s play in recent weeks, particularly the fact that he’s assumed the starting centerfield duties thanks to his superb defensive play, likely earned him a chance to remain with the big league club. Carp has no minor league options remaining, so the team would have had to risk losing him on waivers. Carp was a popular target in trade rumors throughout the offseason and parts of spring training, making it unlikely that he would have gotten through waivers unclaimed.
This left Nava as the most likely candidate to go, in part because he has a minor league option remaining. The 31-year-old has struggled at the plate this season, batting a mere .149/.240/.269 through his first 75 plate appearances. It’s a stark change from the player who hit .303/.385/.445 a year ago while seeing regular playing time at four positions, and posted a .411 OBP against right-handers. Bad luck is somewhat to blame; Nava has a .167 batting average on balls in play. But the outfielder's groundball rate has spiked, his walk rate has dipped, and his strikeout rate has risen. On top of that, his struggles against left-handers (.647 OPS against them last year, .232 in 21 PA this season) created problems for an injury-shortened Red Sox lineup and lefty-heavy outfield.
After Tuesday’s loss to the New York Yankees, Red Sox manager John Farrell told Speier that the team hasn’t given up on Nava. "Were trying to get him going offensively. He’s probably swung the bat a little more earlier in counts than we’ve seen in the past and that might be some reflection of the current level of confidence. When he’s squared up some balls, he hasn’t seen the fruits of that too much. Like all players, they go through a little bit of a peak and valley and we’re trying to get him out of that right now."
Wilson has made eight scoreless appearances for Pawtucket on the year. He’s struck out nine, walked five and allowed just four hits. Speier notes that he’s been showing an increased tendency to induce ground balls than in previous seasons. He'd made his debut with the Red Sox last season, appearing in 26 games. How long Wilson remains with the Red Sox in Boston remains to be seen. Boston needed another bullpen arm for a day and pushed back Victorino’s activation, but that move is expected to still come tomorrow. Wilson could be a likely candidate to go back down at that point in time.