By Jeff Louderback
Confronted with the news that 24-year-old outfielder Ryan Kalish will have right shoulder surgery and miss spring training plus part of the 2013 season, the Boston Red Sox signed Ryan Sweeney to a minor league deal on Friday.
Kalish, who two years ago was one of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization and was expected to contend for playing time this season, missed much of 2011 and 2012 due to shoulder and neck injuries.
With the right-handed hitting Jonny Gomes signed to play left field, and the newly signed, switch-hitting Shane Victorino wielding a better bat from the right side, the Red Sox need to add a left-handed hitting outfielder who will see time at the corner spots.
Sweeney, who was acquired last offseason with Andrew Bailey from Oakland for Josh Reddick, is a candidate for a platoon role with the Red Sox. So is the switch-hitting Daniel Nava. Yet Boston will still likely acquire a left-handed hitter who can play first base and the outfield via trade. Seattle’s Mike Carp and Colorado’s Tyler Colvin are possibilities.
A second round pick of the Chicago White Sox out of high school in 2003, the 27-year-old Sweeney has never reached the original potential that the White Sox saw in him, but he does have a .280 career average in seven Major League seasons and can proficiently play all three outfield spots. Sweeney lacks power – he only has 14 home runs in 1,900 plate appearances – and last season with the Red Sox he batted .260 in 219 plate appearances with no home runs. His 2012 campaign ended on July 30 when he broke his hand punching a clubhouse door at Fenway Park and required season-ending surgery.
Sweeney provides left-handed hitting outfield depth since Jeremy Hazelbaker is the lone minor league outfielder on the projected 2013 Triple-A Pawtucket roster who hits from the left side. Jackie Bradley Jr., who is one of the club’s top three prospects, is a dynamic left-handed hitting outfielder who is slated to open the season at Double-A Portland but could be Major League ready at some point this year.