In a quick succession of moves, the Red Sox have placed reliever Carson Smith on the 15-day disabled list with elbow soreness, Brock Holt on the 7-day version with a mild concussion, and recalled Noe Ramirez and Blake Swihart in their places.
The Smith move had been foreshadowed a few days ago with John Farrell revealing he was still feeling some discomfort in the elbow that led to him missing the start of the season. Apparently he came back before he was completely ready, and it's done him no favors. Hopefully the second time will be the charm, and while it would be nice to see the process go more quickly, it's more important by far that they get it right this time.
For Holt, this is a rather more surprising development. There was no obvious incident that would have caused this, and if you're going to try to track it back to some point based on performance, you pretty much have to head all the way back to game four to be thorough. One really hopes this was recent, and not the result of either Holt or -- worse -- the Red Sox intentionally overlooking what has been increasingly recognized in recent years as an extremely serious condition.
Whatever moment caused it, Holt is out of the picture for now, and in his place is...Blake Swihart. Likely to act as the starting left fielder vs. all right-handed pitchers.
This is territory we've tread over a thousand times by now, and for what it's worth this is more or less exactly the sort of scenario that probably convinced the Sox to give him time in left and has me so opposed to it. Swihart is a prime commodity as a catcher, and if not dime-a-dozen in left field, then certainly not special. But to be that prime commodity he can be behind the plate, he needs to improve there defensively.
More than any other position, catcher demands your full attention, and it hasn't been getting Swihart's in the time since he was sent down to Pawtucket specifically because he lacked polish behind the plate. The Red Sox have kept him working on it even when he's in left, and that extra duty is likely to blame in part for his unimpressive offense in Triple-A (.243/.344/.311 in 122 plate appearances), though given his low strikeout totals and batting average, at least some of that can be attributed to variance.
In Boston, though? It seems unlikely they're going to have him playing left in about 75% of their games while still expecting him to work on what he needs to work on behind the plate. They're either going to overtax him tremendously, or let his catching work go fallow for a time.
And no matter which direction they choose to go in, the reality will be the same: the Red Sox need help in left field, and that's not going to change once Brock Holt gets back given his recent performances. That Swihart is up now means they also don't trust Castillo a lick, so he's apparently not a realistic option either. They can just leave Swihart there if he starts hitting better and doesn't make a mess of things in the outfield ala Ramirez last year. But to do so would be to, again, either overwork him or leave a huge gap in his development behind the plate.
With all that in mind, the Red Sox are basically just dragging their feet with left field to no great purpose. They can get a better left fielder than Swihart by trading him given his value. Or they can just trade for a player with a similar bat to Swihart's and a lot more experience in left while giving up a lot less because, again, he's not exactly special at a position with high offensive expectations. All this is is one big waste of development time for Swihart.
And on the other side of things, we get Noe Ramirez again. It's kind of hard to see him as much of a major league pitcher after what he's shown so far. Anthony Varvaro, meanwhile, has a track record in the majors (quite a good one, in fact), and an 18:5 K:BB in 17 innings of work. Seems like an easy choice to me, and yet...