Where has Pedro Ciriaco been all season?
The answer, unfortunately for the Red Sox, is buried behind Nick Punto. But Ciriaco, given a chance to shine because of Dustin Pedroia’s thumb injury, came through again Sunday, making another outstanding defensive play at shortstop and singling in the go-ahead run in the 10th in a 3-2 win over the Yankees.
Here’s the video of the grab and the video of the hit.
Ciriaco is hitting .349 and is 6-for-6 stealing bases in 18 games for the Red Sox after being called up earlier this month. He really should have made the team out of spring training, but the Red Sox wanted to carry five outfielders instead of two utilitymen.
That the Red Sox have Ciriaco is actually a result of last summer’s deal to send infielder Yamaico Navarro to Kansas City for Mike Aviles, Boston’s current starting shortstop. The Royals quickly soured on Navarro, sending him to Pittsburgh in a minor trade after the season. That made Ciriaco expendable after two years in the organization, and after he was bumped from the 40-man and became a free agent, the Red Sox signed him to a minor league contract.
It’s doubtful Ciriaco has a future as a regular in Boston — his fast offensive start is a fluke — but his speed and defense could keep him in the league as a reserve for several years. He’d seem to stand a better chance of being around next year than Punto, even if Punto did get a two-year deal to sign last winter.
The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.
Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.
Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.
Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.