In addition to activating first baseman/outfielder Kyle Schwarber from the injured list and designating utility man Marwin Gonzalez for assignment, the Red Sox also activated outfielder Alex Verdugo from the paternity leave list ahead of Friday night’s series opener against the Orioles at Fenway Park.
In order to make room for Verdugo on the 26-man roster, right-hander Tanner Houck, as expected, has been optioned to Triple-A Worcester, Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) earlier Friday afternoon.
Verdugo had been held out of action since last Sunday on account of being placed on the paternity list while the Red Sox were in Toronto.
The 25-year-old flew to Los Angeles for the birth of his son, A.J., and returned to Boston on Thursday night, though the Sox were forced to move him to the restricted list since he was away from the club for more than three days.
At the time he left the Red Sox to be with his family in Southern California, Verdugo was heating up at the plate, slashing a scorching .500/.500/.833 with three doubles, one home run, two RBI, and two runs scored over his last five games (20 plate appearances) dating back to August 4.
On the 2021 campaign — his second with the Sox — as a whole, the 6-foot, 192 pound left-handed hitter has posted a .278/.344/.428 slash line to go along with 24 doubles, one triple, 11 home runs, 41 RBI, 66 runs scored, five stolen bases, 38 walks, and 65 strikeouts across 105 total games (439 plate appearances) in which he has played all three outfield positions.
As he makes his return to the Red Sox for the first of three games against the Orioles, Verdugo will be starting in left field and batting out of the two-hole Friday night.
Houck, meanwhile, was optioned to Worcester to make room for Verdugo on the major-league roster, though his stay with the WooSox is expected to be temporary.
This is the case because, as Cora explained on Thursday, Houck will be back with the big-league club “soon.”
Put another way, the 25-year-old hurler made his last start for Boston in Thursday’s loss to the Rays. Assuming he remains on a normal schedule, he would be in line to pitch again on Tuesday, when the Red Sox will be taking on the Yankees in a split doubleheader against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
By optioning Houck to Worcester now, the Sox will be able to call him up as the 27th man for Tuesday’s twin bill in the Bronx and start him on regular rest.
Through eight appearances (six starts) across five stints with Boston so far this season, Houck has pitched to the tune of a 2.93 ERA and 1.84 FIP to go along with 44 strikeouts and just seven walks over 30 2/3 total innings of work dating back to April 3.
Tuesday would mark the third time this year Houck has served as the club’s 27th man for a doubleheader, as he previously started one of two games against the White Sox on April 18 and one of two games against the Blue Jays on August 7.
Update: The roster moves have been made official.
(Picture of Alex Verdugo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)