BOSTON -- In the wake of the Red Sox designating Hanley Ramirez for assignment on Friday, the door has now opened for the likes of Mitch Moreland and Blake Swihart to garner more playing time for the club.
The surprise roster move was made in response to the return of second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who has missed the entire season while working his way back from cartilage restoration surgery on his left knee last October.
The 2008 American League MVP was not in the starting lineup on Friday night, but Moreland was as he begins his full-time takeover of the first-base position after forcing the manager's hand with consistency in the field, and more specifically at the plate where he is hitting .311 with 20 multihit games in 34 appearances this season.
"It's a situation we talked about and the way Mitch is swinging the bat, the way he plays defense, he did a good job, and I did feel that the roles were about to change," said manager Alex Cora. "… He's putting good at-bats against lefties. It seems like he's not expanding the zone. People might think it's a small sample size, but he's been doing it for a while. We felt that it was going to improve our defense, too. I thought that was where we were going, so we went there."
"I got to get ready to go every day," said Moreland. "For me, it's not going to change a whole lot. I come in every day with the same mindset, been that way since I started playing. Try to come in ready to go."
Swihart, who looked to be the odd man out leading up to this point, has struggled to find playing time this season, managing just 33 plate appearances thus far, despite his continued work across the infield and outfield.
On Friday, his manager saw the move as an opportunity for the 26-year-old to finally get more reps across the diamond, including backing up Moreland, as well as a return to his natural spot behind the plate where he has logged just 12 games and six starts since 2016.
"I've had conversation with AC and with Dave [Dombrowksi]," said Swihart. "It's just going to give me more of an opportunity … whether that's playing first, or outfield or catching. Just having the conversations with them, and them communicating with me has been great. Just talking to me and understanding they're trying to get me opportunities. I think it will be good."
"Wait and see. He might start, potential to start, too," Cora said of Swihart catching, among other things. "I know he played a lot of positions in Spring Training. He played third, left, I think he played second. But we haven't used him. We talk about it, but he'll work on it. Whenever we do feel ready, might be tomorrow, he's going to play first."
Thornburg's rehab clock reset
Dombrowski noted that the team had recalled relief pitcher Tyler Thornburg and that they would keep him on the disabled list with the big club so they can return him to a rehab assignment next week.
"What's happened with Tyler, he's doing very well, he's not having problems, but his last day for injury rehab is Tuesday," explained the Red Sox general manager. "So that means he'd have to be activated on basically Wednesday and he'd have to be 100 percent a part of the bullpen, work numerous days, and he's just not quite there yet in his rehab. So, we recall him and that resets in a week the rehab, the number of days we can send him out once again."
Thornburg, whose last big league appearance came in October 2016, is working his way back from thoracic outlet syndrome surgery performed in June.
The right-hander has made nine appearances between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket during his rehab stint, posting a 5.14 ERA, with nine strikeouts and seven walks in seven innings.
"He's very close, but we don't want to rush this process," Dombrowski added. "We don't want to put him out there and have him pitch too often and have it be a setback for him. So, we sat down, our training staff, Alex, Dana [LeVangie], Tyler and myself, and really everybody came to an agreement that this was the best thing for him."