With Josh Winckowski slated to be activated from the COVID-19 related injured list and start against Cleveland on Tuesday, the Sox needed to clear a spot on their 26-man roster for the rookie right-hander.
They have accomplished this by optioning Hernandez, but will still need to create a 40-man roster spot for Winckowski since players on the COVID IL do not count against it and Boston’s 40-man roster is currently at full capacity.
Taking that into consideration, it’s certainly possible that someone like Phillips Valdez — who was optioned to Worcester on July 15 — could be designated for assignment at some point on Tuesday to create that 40-man opening for Winckowski.
Hernandez began the 2022 season at Worcester and made seven starts before suffering a torn right meniscus that ultimately required surgery in late May. The 25-year-old southpaw returned to action for the WooSox earlier this month and did not allow a run across four relief appearances before getting called up to Boston when Winckowski was placed on the COVID IL on July 14.
In his return to the Red Sox bullpen, Hernandez had posted a 3.86 ERA in his first three outings of the year before getting shelled for five runs (four earned) on six hits, one walk, and two strikeouts over 1 1/3 innings in Friday’s 28-5 loss to the Blue Jays.
Winckowski, meanwhile, made his major-league debut on May 28 and has since produced a 4.38 ERA (4.26 FIP) to go along with 26 strikeouts to 14 walks over seven starts spanning 37 innings of work for the Red Sox. The 24-year-old pitched well in his last time out against the Rays at Tropicana Field on July 13, yielding three runs on four hits, two walks, and five strikeouts across six solid frames.
That same night, Winckowski — who is vaccinated — reported COVID-like symptoms to the team and later tested positive for the virus. He was placed on the COVID-related injured list the following day and remained in Florida while in isolation.
Now fully recovered, Winckowski will make his eighth start of the season on Tuesday night. Back on June 25, the Ohio-born righty allowed two runs and struck out four in 5 1/3 innings against the Guardians at Progressive Field in Cleveland.
The Guardians, on the other hand, have not yet named a starter for Tuesday’s contest. That being said, first pitch from Fenway Park is still scheduled for 7:10 p.m. eastern time on NESN.
(Picture of Darwinzon Hernandez: Elsa/Getty Images)