FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Greetings from the Fort, where Daniel Butler displayed some sharp-edged gallows humor upon his demotion to Triple-A Pawtucket Sunday morning.
Butler piled all his belongings into a laundry cart for the move to the minor-league clubhouse, then said, “Cleanup in Aisle 2,” to clear a pathway.
Don’t be fooled: Even if the 27-year-old catcher knew coming into camp he wasn’t going to win a roster spot ahead of veterans A.J. Pierzynski and David Ross, the news still stings. Maybe more so when you’re this close to making it to the big leagues, where Butler has yet to play a single game.
Prediction: That streak will be broken this season. Butler had an excellent season for Triple-A Pawtucket last season, not only offensively (a slash line of .350/.479/.829, with 14 home runs in 82 games), but behind the plate, where he earned the trust of his pitching staff and threw out 30.5 percent of would-be base stealers. He does not have the arm of Christian Vasquez, with whom he is expected to share playing time in Pawtucket, but possesses the experience and all-around game that puts him in line for a callup if either Ross or Pierzynski is unable to play.
“We have three catchers we feel are a foul tip away to replace someone if the need were to happen, and Daniel is in that mix,’’ said manager John Farrell, including Ryan Lavarnway with Butler and Vazquez.
Lavarnway, though, also is learning a new position, first base, while Vazquez has just one game of Triple-A experience. Butler could well be the first catcher recalled in the event of an injury.
“He’s a great kid, a solid catcher,’’ Ross said of Butler Sunday morning. “This is the second year in a row of being lockermates, and he’s constantly learning. I feel he works just as hard, if not harder, than every catcher we've got.
“He’s a fun guy to be around. I think he’s going to have a long major league career as a catcher, but that’s me. He reminds me of a lot of good young catchers you see. Just solid back there. Nothing flashy about him back there, but his game is just solid all the way across the board.’’
Farrell announced a couple of other roster moves Sunday: Dalier Hinojosa, the former Cuban national team star who was signed to a minor-league deal for $4 million last October, was assigned to minor-league camp, as was left-handed reliever Rich Hill, who was a late arrival in camp, having remained home to care for his infant son, who died weeks after his birth.
The 28-year-old Hinojosa, who defected from Cuba with his wife and later had his mother join them, did not pitch at all last year. Farrell said he’ll pitch out of the bullpen in the minors. “He needs time and innings,’’ he said.
John Ely, another nonroster invitee who is recovering from Tommy John surgery he underwent last April, will remain in extended spring training, Farrell said.
Left-hander Craig Breslow will make his first game appearance Monday in a minor-league game. He will not pitch in a big-league game here so that the Sox can expedite his return if he needs to open the season on the DL.
Nonroster pitcher Jose Mijares was given his release.
With these moves, the Sox now have 35 players in big league camp, including 30 players from the 40-man roster, and five nonroster invitees.