Injured Red Sox first baseman Mitch Moreland started a rehab assignment at the Triple-A level on Thursday, Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com reports. Moreland, who has been out for several weeks, may be in for a somewhat “lengthy” stint in the minors as he works his way back to the bigs, per Cotillo.
Moreland got off to a fine start this season, slashing .225/.316/.543 (116 wRC+) with 13 home runs and an eye-opening .318 ISO in 174 plate appearances, but multiple ailments have derailed his year since late May. The 33-year-old landed on the 10-day IL with a lower back strain May 29, and though he made a quick return, Moreland went back to the shelf June 8 after suffering a right quad strain.
The lefty-hitting Moreland and righty Steve Pearce opened the season in a timeshare at first base for the Red Sox. Pearce has been down since June 1, though, and knee troubles will prevent him from returning in the near future. The long-term absences of Moreland and Pearce have left first almost exclusively to Michael Chavis, who has enjoyed a respectable rookie year. Chavis had been Boston’s primary second baseman before the injuries to its first basemen. Brock Holt and Marco Hernandez have offered good production there in Chavis’ stead, so it’s unclear how the club will divvy up playing time between first and the keystone once Moreland returns.
Moreland’s comeback figures to have negative consequences for either the optionable Hernandez or veteran infielder Eduardo Nunez, who Cotillo suggests could become a DFA candidate at that point. Although the Red Sox would owe Nunez the balance of his $4MM salary in getting rid of him, he hasn’t justified a roster spot this season. A .233/.249/.313 line (40 wRC+) in 170 PA has relegated Nunez to a bench role.