OAKLAND -- It’s hard to escape the message that the Red Sox have sent this past week about the importance of winning a game on a given day, given their willingness to shuttle players across the country even if it means, in some cases, flying right back after just a game or two.
With the Sox playing their last game before the All-Star break, they easily could have elected to muddle through with what they had for Sunday afternoon’s game. The bullpen is rested -- only Junichi Tazawa was used in Saturday night’s 3-0 loss -- and they just added an arm in newly acquired left-hander Matt Thornton, who last pitched Thursday in Detroit for the White Sox.
Instead, the Sox optioned outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. back to Pawtucket and summoned left-handed pitcher Drake Britton, who had made just one appearance for the PawSox after his recent promotion from Double-A Portland.
With Oakland having five players in Sunday’s starting lineup batting from the left side, Red Sox manager John Farrell said he wanted a third left-handed option out of the bullpen, which Britton gives him, joining Thornton and Craig Breslow. Britton also provides a long-man option in the event that rookie Brandon Workman, making his first big-league start, is knocked out early, and may give the Sox a chance to see if Britton might be of assistance immediately after the break, when the Sox run a 10-game gauntlet against the Yankees, Rays and Orioles, all of whom have potent left-handed hitters.
Farrell said barring any unforeseen moves, Britton will remain with the club indefinitely.
Britton becomes the ninth player to join the Sox since this three-city, 10-game West Coast swing began a week ago Friday in Anaheim. The others, in order: reliever Jose De La Torre, infielder Brock Holt, reliever Alfredo Aceves, Bradley, Workman, reliever Steven Wright, reliever Pedro Beato and Thornton.
De La Torre, Aceves, Bradley and Wright all had short stints and were returned to Pawtucket. Bradley started last Tuesday in Seattle, the same day he flew in, and hit a home run that broke a 7-7 tie and helped the Sox to an 11-8 win. But with Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino both good to go after nagging injuries, and with the break coming up to give Victorino more time to recover, Farrell said the club could make do without Bradley, who in three separate stints with the Sox is batting .155 (9-for-58).
Britton’s arrival qualifies as unexpected, just two years removed from going 1-13 with a 6.91 ERA in Class A Salem. The 24-year-old left-hander, a 23rd-round draft choice in 2007, was invited to his first big-league camp this spring, but had that invitation rescinded by the Red Sox after he was arrested following a late-night, high-speed incident that resulted in a number of DUI-related charges, which are still pending.
He opened the season returning to Double-A Portland and went 7-6 with a 3.51 ERA. He was promoted to Pawtucket on July 5 and made one start there, giving up 10 hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings. SoxProspects.com ranks him as the 13th-best prospect in the Sox organization, one slot behind Workman. He has a lively fastball that he has had trouble commanding at times, features a curveball and has been developing a changeup.
On Sunday, Britton addressed his arrest to reporters.
“It was very embarrassing,’’ he said. “I'm extremely remorseful for bringing that negative attention not only to myself but to the organization. It was a very big learning experience for me and I've learned a lot. But now I'm just concentrating on making things right and back to focusing on baseball."