Every time Robin Ventura tries to get away from starting Avisail Garcia, something forces him to bring him back into the mix.
The first time, it was Garcia himself, which is always preferable. He brushed off an awful start to hit .472/.524/.778 over a 10-game stretch crossing into May, which put Jerry Sands out of mind.
The second time, it was Austin Jackson's knee injury. J.B. Shuck had flatlined at that point, so Ventura initially reverted to the old arrangement of Garcia in right and Adam Eaton in center. While the return to the outfield was a mistake, Garcia rode a little it of a revitalization into mid-May, even after Shuck started wearing the glove in the family.
But as soon as Garcia tailed off again -- a 2-for-19 slump -- Ventura played with other options during the Toronto series. One game involved Jose Abreu at DH with Tyler Saladino at third and Todd Frazier at first, which was cool. The other lineup featured both catchers, both of whom homered. Both ideas were worth revisiting.
Garcia returned to the lineup on Tuesday after a two-day absence, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout. That same night, though, Melky Cabrera exited the game early with a sore wrist.
The wrist may not be that big of a deal. He initially injured it in the June 19 game against Cleveland, departing in the fourth inning after an awkward diving attempt earlier in the game. It's possible he left in protest of an unsafe workplace, since 1) it was a James Shields start, and 2) he came back the next day and homered. In fact, Cabrera was 13-for-35 with three homers, two doubles and a triple since the injury, so it looked like the most temporary of setbacks.
Alas, the problem resurfaced on Tuesday. Cabrera didn't look comfortable at the plate, more so than everybody else against Kyle Gibson, and gave way to Jason Coats two-thirds of the way through the game:
"Yeah, he's got something," Ventura said. "When he swings and misses, there seems to be some irritation there. Even in the outfield, I think [Dozier's] second home run, he hit his hand out there. Just took him out to figure out what it is and where I'm going to go from here."
Given that Cabrera rebounded quickly from a worse-looking situation 10 days ago, I don't want to overreact to this particular injury. I'd just be curious to see where Ventura could go from there. He's already overextended, so much so that we're used to seeing Shuck starting, which is very troublesome. If Cabrera had to miss any amount of time, the only way to avoid Garcia would be to play Coats a few days in a row. Coats is 1-for-16 with eight strikeouts in his first cup of coffee, so that would be the biggest affront to Garcia yet.
It's a rather poetic twist that Jackson suffered his knee injury on the same day Justin Morneau signed with the Sox. The team wasted no time counting on Morneau to resemble a big-league hitter immediately upon his return, and the need for one isn't going away.
Morneau is still on schedule for a second-half return from his elbow surgery. The Sox were upfront about it when he signed, and both sides are stressing patience. He went without a spring training, so his rehab assignment may resemble a midseason version:
"You go into Spring Training, you get two at-bats, you get a day off, you get two at-bats, you have a day off. You kind of go through that whole thing of stretching it out," he said. "The total number of at-bats, I think it's more of that point at the end of the spring where you get four or five days in a row where you're getting at-bats and you're seeing pitching every day. That's where the timing starts to come, at least for me.
"I don't know how many days that's going to take. Once I go on a rehab assignment, I can't see it being less than 30 at-bats before I'll be ready. But who knows? I could feel great after 20 or whatever. To say less than that would probably be pushing it a little too much."
A second straight losing month makes the Morneau signing more essential, which is a mixed bag in and of itself. Ideally, the Sox would be mostly functioning, and Morneau would step in as a left-handed bench bat who could assume greater duties if his ability demanded the playing time.
Now, with the Sox needing help in the bullpen, outfield, DH, catcher and starting pitching (though I'm guessing Shields is it there), Morneau may be relied upon to provide a greater solution in a shorter time frame. If that's the case, then he better take all the time he needs to get ready, because his reintroduction to the big leagues may not have much of a safety net.