PAWTUCKET — At first blush, it would seem PawSox manager Kevin Boles has a dilemma on his hands.
His team already flush with options at first base and the corner outfield spots, Boles will have another warm body at his disposal when Daniel Nava finally reports to the Triple-A ranks on Friday. Since Nava isn’t on a rehab assignment, his stay with Pawtucket figures to cut into someone’s playing time.
Yet as Boles pointed out before his team’s lackluster 8-1 loss to Rochester on Thursday, the schedule will be adjusted accordingly. The juggling act of fitting Nava into a setting that already includes a neophyte who the Red Sox want to see grow at first base (Ryan Lavarnway) and two outfielders in Bryce Brentz and Alex Hassan who are deemed “priorities” given their 40-man status shouldn’t pose a major conundrum.
“We’re just going to have balance it out. Daniel is going to play all three outfield positions for us. As far as first-base play, I’m sure he’ll get a spot here and there, but the outfield is definitely going to be the priority,” Boles noted. “We’ll bounce guys around, which is something we’ve done all year.”
If anything, Nava’s arrival means that Boles can get a head start on what the lineup may look like several days in advance.
“You try to map things out as best you can,” said Boles. “We’re starting to get to the point where we do have numbers here. With Nava being a switch hitter, we don’t have to worry as far as matchups go. With the other guys, we’ll have to start to pay attention as far as putting guys in the best spot. The playing time is going to be distributed and we want to make sure that when guys are in there, they have the best chance to succeed.”
Planning to move players around the diamond was a topic of discussion that Boles mentioned took place at the tail end of spring training. Case in point, the PawSox are divvying up reps behind the plate for three catchers on Boston’s 40-man roster – Lavarnway, Dan Butler and Christian Vazquez.
“The core of our lineup has stayed the same, but the other pieces, whether it’s the leadoff spot or Nos. 7,8,9, we’ve moved those pieces around,” said Boles. “I think the versatility, you’ve got to make sure these guys have it because there’s very few guys who get called up to the big leagues who play just one set position.”
The idea of getting Nava experience in center field figures to cut into the workload of Mike McCoy and Corey Brown, two PawSox players who could be subject to the same kind of sporadic playing time that’s felled Brandon Snyder during the first three weeks of the season.
The PawSox have now played 22 games with Snyder appearing in 14 contests. Despite playing fewer games than Brentz and Lavarnway, Snyder tops the team in home runs (four). Two of his round trippers came during Tuesday’s game after the 27-year-old sat out the previous three games.
Another PawSox regular who is also feeling the squeeze is Justin Henry. The popular infielder was not in the lineup for the second straight day on Thursday with newcomer Ryan Roberts once again drawing the nod at second base.
The kind of irregularities that Snyder and Henry have had to manage may pop up even more frequently with Nava joining the fold.
“We want Daniel to get comfortable, but here’s a guy with versatility,” said Boles, who after the game mentioned that Nava will be slotted in the middle of Pawtucket’s lineup. “Everyone is going to get their opportunity and I think we’ve proven that. The situation that we’re going to have with Nava, some things are going to have be adjusted, but we’ll be ready for those adjustments ”
There is a monitoring system that helps Boles in making sure that everything is going according to plan – at least for the most part.
“We keep a spread sheet and you have each player at each position that is going to play at whatever the position implies. By the end of the week, it all filters out and the playing time is in order with what (Boston’s) front office wants,” said the skipper. “You have to play close attention because you want everyone to stay sharp.”
The presence of Will Middlebrooks with the PawSox may have resulted in back-to-back days of no Garin Cecchini in the starting lineup, but it has proven to be beneficial in a sitting-on-the-bench-and-observing sense for the 23-year-old Cecchini.
“He’s been there and done that so you learn from him ... the way he plays players on defense and moves around on the diamond,” said Cecchini. “You always want to be open minded to everyone.”
The Boston Red Sox World Series trophies will be at McCoy Stadium on Friday as the PawSox conclude the homestand with one more game against Rochester. Fans will have the opportunity to have their picture taken with all three trophies from 2004, 2007 and 2013 beginning at 4:45 p.m., which is when the gates open.
Those in attendance will also see Matt Barnes make his 2014 pitching debut for Pawtucket. The PawSox will have to make a pair of moves in order to get Barnes and Nava on the active roster.
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03