BOSTON -- For a bullpen that needs help, knuckleballer Steven Wright should be ready to offer some on Tuesday when he is eligible to be activated following an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
Wright has pitched in five games in a Minor League rehab assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket, going 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA over 9 2/3 innings.
“He’s been throwing the ball well,” said Red Sox manager Alex Cora. “We’ve stretched him out to three innings. Kind of like the way we used him in August and September last year.”
With several relievers being asked to do a lot of late, and Heath Hembree on the injured list with a right elbow injury, Wright’s return could not be coming at a better time.
It will be interesting to see how Wright’s surgically-repaired left knee will hold up. He went on the injured list with setbacks multiple times last season and couldn’t pitch in the postseason.
“If he goes multiple innings, we’ll see how he feels the next day,” said Cora. “As of now, no red flags. He’s been good, actually. We’ll see how it plays out.
As for Hembree, his return to action has taken a little longer than originally hoped. He last pitched for the Red Sox on June 10.
“He threw a bullpen and he hasn’t bounced back the way we wanted, so one more day of rest, see how he feels tomorrow coming in, and then we’ll make a decision, but nothing like [the discomfort he had] in Baltimore,” said Cora. “He’s feeling better, but no way we were going to send him for one inning the way he feels today.”
Before the injury, Hembree had developed into one of Cora’s most trusted relievers, posting a 2.51 ERA in 31 games.
“He’s very important to what we do,” said Cora. “You saw it. He can get lefties and righties out. He can come in with traffic and get people out, or he can actually close games. His fastball plays at this level regardless of velocity. He goes from 93 to 97, he’s been able to throw it up in the zone.”
Other injury news
• The Red Sox got a key piece back in the lineup on Monday night, as Rafael Devers made the start at third base. The left-handed hitter didn’t start any of the three games against the Blue Jays over the weekend due to a right hamstring injury, but came up with a game-tying RBI single as a pinch hitter in Friday night’s win.
“He ran today. He took grounders yesterday,” said Cora. “He feels good. Play it smart, too. Don't try to bunt, don't try to steal bases. Just see the ball and hit it far. He's OK.”
• Utilityman Brock Holt was not in the lineup, a day after exiting in the fourth inning with a left hamstring injury.
“Brock is day to day. A little bit sore,” said Cora. “We’ll stay away from him today, see how he reacts to treatment tomorrow. Hopefully toward the end of the week, he can start again.”
• It continues to be slow going for first baseman Mitch Moreland in his attempted return from a right quad strain suffered on June 7.
“Mitch, he ran a little bit more today. He’s going to take groundballs. Nothing soon with him,” said Cora.