With Kevin Plawecki hitting the 10-day injured list due to a left hamstring strain, the Red Sox recalled top catching prospect Connor Wong from Triple-A Worcester to fill in for the veteran backstop for the time being.
While Wong is not in Boston’s starting lineup for Tuesday night’s series opener against the Rays at Tropicana Field, the Sox are planning on using the young catcher while he is up with the big-league club.
As a matter of fact, Wong will make his first start behind the plate in Sunday’s series finale against the Yankees at Fenway Park, according to Red Sox manager Alex Cora — though he could see some playing time in the infield before then considering he has professional experience at both second and third base.
“We’ll use him just like Kevin [Plawecki],” Cora said of Wong. “The plan is for him to start on Sunday… Where we’re at, Christian [Arroyo], as you know, is banged up. We’ll stay away from him today, most likely. In case of an emergency, we’ll move him out there. He can pinch-run, he’s a right-handed bat. As of now, just kind of like Kevin. Use him that way.”
Wong, who turned 25 last month, was one of three players (Alex Verdugo and Jeter Downs being the other two) the Red Sox acquired from the Dodgers as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to Los Angeles last February.
Although he did not get the chance to display his skills in a truly competitive environment last year on account of the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the 2020 minor-league season, Wong did impress at the alternate training site, and he carried that over into his second big-league camp with the Sox this spring after being added to the club’s 40-man roster this past November.
“I do believe the people that saw him last year and the people that are working with him this year, they’re very comfortable with him. I’m very comfortable,” said Cora. “We talked a little bit in spring training. There’s just something about him. There’s a calm behind the plate. There’s not a lot of emotion, he just goes about his business. He’s a good athlete. His at-bats in spring training, he controlled the strike zone, which is very important. We’re very pleased with his progress.”
A former third-round draft selection of the Dodgers out of the University of Houston in 2017, the 6-foot-1, 181 pound backstop opened the 2021 minor-league season with Triple-A Pawtucket having only played 40 career games above the High-A level.
Due to a hamstring injury suffered in early May, however, Wong has been limited to just 16 games with the WooSox and is only slashing .148/.188/.245 with three doubles, one home run, seven RBI, five runs scored, three walks, and 19 strikeouts over his first 64 plate appearances at Triple-A. Those offensive struggles do not seem to concern Cora, though.
“He hasn’t swung the bat well since he came off the IL, but that doesn’t matter,” Cora said. “We like the player, we know what we can do. And hopefully here, working with [hitting coach Tim Hyers and assistant hitting coach Peter Fatse] — obviously with the feedback from [WooSox hitting coach Rich Gedman] down there — just working on the things that he has to work, and he’ll put together a good at-bat whenever we need him.”
Wong will become the second player in Red Sox history to don the No. 74, joining former left-hander Mike Kickham in doing so.
(Picture of Connor Wong: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)