Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Scott Atchison (48) pitches against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
The Red Sox were winning in the eighth inning against the Tigers on Monday night, but this didn't comfort Ryan Sweeney after Omar Infante dove to rob him of a hit. Sweeney returned to the dugout and proceeded to punch a door, which in turn just might have caused him to break the knuckle on his pinkie. Sweeney couldn't throw immediately afterward, so Cody Ross, who originally had the night off, came in as a defensive replacement for Sweeney in the ninth.
Sweeney will have x-rays to determine the extent of the damage, if any, but the timing could not be worse. The Red Sox were shopping Sweeney thanks to what was a surplus of outfield depth, and this hand injury means it's unlikely he'll be traded to anyone. If he's on the 15-day DL for a month, that will clog up the roster, as Boston needs to clear room on the 40-man in order to place both Andrew Bailey and Chris Carpenter on it. In an odd way, it might almost be better if Sweeney does have a break, rather than something smaller, as it would mean he could justifiably be placed on the 60-day DL for the injury, fixing the 40-man issue in the short-term that way.
Of course, the optimal scenario is that, after a night's rest, Sweeney's hand feels better and he's good to go again in a day or two. That would at least allow the Red Sox to put him on waivers and attempt to move him in August, should they still be willing to do so.
Scott Atchison was pulled from his rehab assignment at Pawtucket after he gave up a homer and three runs in an inning of work on Friday, thanks to waking up the next morning in pain. Atchison has been on the disabled list since July 14 with forearm tightness, but had an MRI for elbow discomfort. Peter Abraham reports that the Red Sox are still awaiting the results, but this could be bad news for Atchison.
Atchison has been great in Boston's bullpen this year, but there's a good chance this injury news would be worse for him than for the Red Sox. Atchison has just the one elbow and job, but the Red Sox have multiple arms to fill that role, thanks to the presence of Clayton Mortensen and Junichi Tazawa, not to mention the impending return of Bailey.
That's not to say the Sox won't miss Atchison's production: he's thrown 76 fantastic innings for the Sox over the last two seasons, posting a 2.36 ERA and 3.4 K/BB in that stretch. That's not easily replaceable, even if the Red Sox have the arms on hand to attempt to do just that. It's just that, as he's already 36 years old, and wasn't set to be arbitration eligible until 2014, a major elbow injury would derail Atchison's best chances at a real major-league payday. And that's a real shame given that, by all accounts, he's a good guy who has worked hard and produced. Here's hoping this is just a minor setback, and not a prelude to something far more debilitating.
Daisuke Matsuzaka is something of a forgotten man again -- in part because people wanted to forget the end of his latest stint with Boston -- but he's working on his own rehab assignment with Pawtucket. Dice-K's trapezius strain cut short his stint in the Red Sox rotation in early July, but he tossed 2-1/3 innings for Triple-A on Monday, throwing 47 pitches, scattering four hits and a walk thanks to three punch outs and and a few outs on the ground.
Dice-K's ERA from his few starts with the Sox in 2012 is an ugly 6.65, but much of that damage came from his last start, when he lasted just an inning and allowed five runs to the A's. That's the appearance that sent him back to the DL to begin with, and prior to that, Matsuzaka had been showing some promise, with 20 strikeouts in 22 innings against just six walks.
It's hard to rely on him for much of anything at this point, but there's some extra pitching depth in the system should it come to that. It's unclear what decision will have to be made about Dice-K when his rehab is over and he's ready to come back, but the bullpen seems unlikely for either Matsuzaka or Aaron Cook.