Brandon Moss was called up for yesterday’s game in replacement of Eric Hinske, who will miss three games in order to be with his pregnant wife. Even from the get-go this was acknowledged as a temporary call up. The Boston Globe Red Sox notebook quoted Terry Francona as saying, “He’s here for three days. This is a good way to get him a first look at the major leagues. People think he has a bright future. He might get to play some this week, but he knows he’s not here as an everyday player.”
Utility hitters and reserve outfielders have been hot-button issues of late. Both Eric Hinske and Wily Mo Pena have disappointed offensively and do not bring enough leather to counteract that deficiency. Jacoby Ellsbury sparkled in his brief stint in Boston, but he is in the same situation as Moss in that he is a valued long-term prospect but is not yet considered ready. Adding another flavor into the mix is the Sox’ recent acquisition of Bobby Kielty, who will reportedly be moved up to the Red Sox within a week in favor of either Pena or Hinske. Combine this mess of backups with J.D. Drew’s underperformance and checkered injury history, and outfield depth is definitely a concern moving forward. Consider this: Brandon Moss, in his first major league game, on the road, against one of the AL’s premiere closers, was allowed to bat as the tying run in the bottom of the ninth. I’m all for baptism by fire, but Francona’s choice last night was inspired less by trying to season the rookie than it was by lack of a better alternative. That’s bad news, especially considering that Coco Crisp is not exactly iron man himself.
Will one of these options emerge into a reliable crunch-time role player, a Dave Roberts or Gabe Kapler type? Pena showed glimmers of promise last year by hitting .301 in 276 at bats, but he has floundered to such an extent this year even having been given many chances to right the ship that it is hard to believe he will settle into any sort of groove before the end of the season. Hinske has slightly more value and especially post-season value because he can also play 3rd base and 1st base, but he is still hitting .207 with only 15 RBI in 116 at bats.