Red Sox: Eduardo Nunez returns as another infielder falls
By Sean Penney
The Boston Red Sox have placed infielder Tzu-Wei Lin on the 10-day injured list and activated Eduardo Nunez to take his place on the roster.
The Boston Red Sox can’t catch a break at second base. Every option they opened the season with capable of covering the position has spent time on the injured list. Now Tzu-Wei Lin, the slick-fielding infielder called up to provide some semblance of depth at the position, has been bitten by the injury imp.
Lin has been placed on the 10-day injured list with what the team is calling a left knee sprain, although it appeared to be more serious than that based on his initial reaction. Lin slid awkwardly into second base on a steal attempt during Friday’s win over the Chicago White Sox. His knee buckled as he unsuccessfully tried to maneuver around the tag.
Further testing will reveal if there is more serious damage but we should expect Lin to be sidelined for at least a of couple weeks. By that point, the Red Sox may have more of their injured infielders back in the fold, which means Lin could be headed back to Triple-A Pawtucket by the time he’s ready to return.
One of those other infielders is already back from his rehab assignment, as the Red Sox have activated Eduardo Nunez to take Lin’s roster spot.
Lin was batting .200 with a pair of doubles in 20 at-bats this season. Nunez hasn’t been any better with a .159 average and .360 OPS in 44 at-bats before he was shut down with a back strain. At least Nunez has more of a track record to suggest he’s capable of being a threat at the plate.
What the Red Sox will miss most from Lin is his glove. Nunez was a disaster when filling in defensively at second base last year, so much so that it necessitated a mid-season rental of former Gold Glove winner Ian Kinsler. The Red Sox have enough issues with the left side of their infield defense. Inserting Nunez up the middle is asking for trouble.
Michael Chavis has been spending time at second base lately but transitioning the natural third baseman to a new position has been more about keeping the rookie’s red-hot bat in the lineup. Chavis has been one of the team’s hottest hitters with a .310 average and four home runs in 13 games since making hid major league debut.
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Chavis has held his own at second base so far but it’s clear he’s here for his bat. You have to wonder how long the Red Sox will risk relying on his inexperience at the position. We almost saw Chavis taken out on a slide by White Sox outfielder Adam Engel last night. Was it a dirty slide? It was once commonplace for runners to wipe out the second baseman to break up a double play but MLB has made strides to protect their players. Engel may have stuck his leg out toward Chavis but he didn’t change his run path and was still within reach of the base, making it a legal move. The problem is that Chavis doesn’t have the footwork or instincts to get out of harms way while still making the throw.
The Red Sox will continue to test Chavis at second base while Nunez is their only alternative option. Neither of them is particularly good at fielding the position but at least Chavis is hitting. If Dustin Pedroia ever returns to provide any meaningful contributions, his glove can solidify the infield defense and Boston will need to find other creative ways to get Chavis’ bat in the lineup.
Nunez may not see significant playing time now that he’s back. Lin certainly wasn’t. At least he provides another healthy body to use in the infield, which the Red Sox haven’t had many of this season.