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Moreland feels good after Triple-A rehab game

Johnson building up arm strength; Wright's recovery to take longer than expected
July 20, 2019

BALTIMORE -- Nathan Eovaldi's return to the 25-man roster Saturday may be one of the first of a few returns to a Red Sox squad in need of a boost out of the All-Star break. Other comebacks, however, may take longer than expected. The positives: Mitch Moreland (right quad strain)

BALTIMORE -- Nathan Eovaldi's return to the 25-man roster Saturday may be one of the first of a few returns to a Red Sox squad in need of a boost out of the All-Star break. Other comebacks, however, may take longer than expected.

The positives: Mitch Moreland (right quad strain) is progressing well in his rehab stint and Brian Johnson (non-baseball-related medical issue) is now just working to build arm stamina back up. The negative: Recovery for Steven Wright's right big toe contusion may take longer than initially expected.

Manager Alex Cora was encouraged by the report from Moreland after a rehab game with Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday, where he went 0-for-2 with a walk, which resulted in him going from first base to third on an ensuing single.

"In the beginning he was a little bit hesitant, but he got there," Cora said of Moreland, who is expected to play seven more innings at first base Saturday. "After the game he was like, 'When am I going to feel this?' And he didn't. This morning he felt good. ... It's one of those mental hurdles that you have to jump, and he did. He felt good about it."

There was hope that Moreland could have been back by this weekend's series in Baltimore, but given that this is now his second lengthy injured-list stint of the year, the Red Sox are opting for caution.

"The defensive part with him, it's not a big deal," Cora said. "He doesn't want to take a chance again that he goes out there and feels it again and something else happens and we're in a hole with him. That's why it's taking longer than expected, but he's being smart about it."

And while Moreland may soon bolster the ongoing uncertainty at first base, Johnson may join Eovaldi soon in a return to the bullpen. For Johnson to return, it's merely all about building up pitch count and arm durability back to where he was before landing on the shelf June 29. The first step is a pitching session either Sunday or Monday, Cora said.

"He's good arm-wise," the manager added. "He just needs the repetitions. We're not very worried about building him up, it's just a matter of building him up, that's about it. He should be with us as soon as we feel he's comfortable as far as the innings and we're extending him long enough that he should help us."

The one dour note is Wright, who has appeared in just six games this season -- missing time earlier due to suspension and now with a toe injury after taking a comebacker off his foot last Saturday. He's in Fort Myers, Fla., for rehab, and there is no timetable for a potential return.

"Probably going to take longer than expected," Cora said.

Nunez released

The Eduardo Nunez era in Boston is officially over. The team announced Saturday that it has released the infielder after he was designated for assignment Monday. Nunez, who is batting .228/.243/.305 in 2019, is now free to sign with any team for a prorated portion of the Major League minimum salary.

"Hopefully, in the right situation," Cora said when asked if he hopes Nunez finds a new club. "Veteran guy that can help a team. He's very helpful with the young players, and he's a winning player. Those are always needed. It just so happened that where we were roster-wise, it was going to be tough."

Sam Travis, who plated Boston's only runs via a homer in Friday's loss, was the position player called up in Nunez's place. And he's the most probable candidate to be sent down when Moreland eventually returns.