The Red Sox have optioned infielder Bobby Dalbec to Triple-A Worcester, the club announced earlier Monday morning.
Dalbec, 27, appeared in 18 Grapefruit League games for Boston this spring, batting .235/.304/.510 with four doubles, two triples, two home runs, six RBIs, 11 runs scored, five walks, and 21 strikeouts over 56 plate appearances.
After breaking camp the last two years as the Sox’ primary first baseman, Dalbec found himself in a much different spot this spring. With Triston Casas taking over those responsibilities moving forward, Dalbec’s path to making Boston’s Opening Day roster came in the form of undertaking a utility role.
While he has mainly played first and third base throughout his big-league career, Dalbec logged 33 innings at shortstop in Grapefruit League play. Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters (including MassLive.com’s Chris Cotillo) on Monday that Dalbec will play a lot of third base and continue to move around the infield in Worcester.
“It’s not easy, but one thing for sure, he’s not gonna stop working,” Cora said of Dalbec. “And that’s something we told him. From the get-go, he knew the situation.
“He’s going to be part of it at one point,” added Cora. “For us to accomplish the things that we are set to do, it’s more than 26 guys. Bobby’s still a good player. I think the at-bats are gonna help him. He’s just got to be ready, and whenever we call his name, if we need it, just be ready to come here and contribute.”
This marks the second time in the last seven months that Dalbec has been sent down to the minors. He was also optioned in early September, when Casas was called up, and slashed .250/.302/.563 with five home runs and eight RBIs in 13 games (53 plate appearances) with the WooSox.
By optioning Dalbec, the Red Sox have ensured fellow infielder Yu Chang that he will be making the team. The two were essentially competing for the same roster spot off the bench this spring and, unlike Dalbec, Chang is out of minor-league options, meaning Boston could not send him down to the minors without first exposing him to waivers.
Chang appeared in 11 games for the Red Sox in September and re-signed with the club on a one-year, $850,000 contract last month. The 27-year-old did not report to camp in Fort Myers until last Thursday after playing for Chinese Taipei in the World Baseball Classic and being delayed by visa issues. He was named MVP of Pool A after going 7-for-16 (.438) at the plate with two doubles, two home runs, eight RBIs, five runs scored, two walks, and two strikeouts in four games.
A native of Taiwan, Chang made his Grapefruit League debut for Boston on Monday, going 1-for-3 with a sixth-inning double off Braves reliever Joe Jimenez. Despite the lack of time he has been in camp, the Red Sox have full confidence in Chang.
“Physically, he’s in a good spot,” Cora said. “Obviously, at-bats have been limited, but he did enough in between the the tournament and camp to stay in shape. It’s hard because of the optics of, ‘Man, Bobby was here the whole time,’ but we knew that this was a possibility. The fact that [Chang] has experience at shortstop helps. We just have to make sure he goes through the whole process and he stays healthy.”
Chang, who turns 28 in August, has prior big-league experience at all four infield positions and is considered to be a plus defender. The versatile 6-foot-1, 187-pounder will round out a Red Sox infield mix to begin the year that includes Casas, Justin Turner, Christian Arroyo, Enrique Hernandez, and Rafael Devers.
(Picture of Bobby Dalbec: Maddie Malhotra/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)