NEW YORK — Just in time for a suddenly-more-important-than-ever series with the Yankees, and then the Rays, the struggling 6-11 Red Sox made a roster move with an eye on settling down its shaky starting rotation.
Catcher Sandy Leon, victim of a roster squeeze this spring and sent to Pawtucket (AAA), was selected to the big-league roster. To make way for Leon, the Red Sox designated for assignment young catcher Blake Swihart.
The Red Sox, who had optioned right-hander Marcus Walden after Monday’s game, filled his spot in the bullpen with fresh arm, right-hander Erasmo Ramirez. The arrival of Ramirez means the bullpen will be at full capacity in case Tuesday night’s starter Chris Sale has a short night.
The club has yet to release its lineup to MLB offices and then the media for Tuesday night’s series opener, but the expectation is that Leon will be in there. Sale, who has a 9.00 ERA after three overall poor starts, has thrown to Leon for most of his first two seasons here and for the most part enjoyed tremendous success pitching to him.
Manager Alex Cora will not speak with the media until 4 p.m. EST, so official reasons for the move will have to wait. But by DFA’ing Swihart, the Red Sox are risking another team placing a claim on him when he is placed on waivers, which must be done in the coming week.
Or, the Red Sox could trade Swihart — perhaps they already have a deal in place or are reviewing trade ideas that likely were discussed over the winter or in spring training when the Red Sox let it be known they had an excess of catchers — Christian Vazquez is not going anywhere — and would like to trade one of them.
If Swihart clears waivers and is not traded, the Red Sox could release him (unlikely) or outright him to the minor leagues.
Whatever happens, the move likely signals the team saw a need to get the defensively excellent Leon back on the ballclub and provide stability to the underachieving staff. The starters have all stated in the past how much they enjoy throwing to Leon, but the party line all spring and early this season is that there are no personal catchers and every pitcher can pitch to any catcher.
Now, one of those catchers is Leon, and not Swihart.