Red Sox designate Edward Mujica; Matt Barnes on tap?

BOSTON -- Reliever Edward Mujica, once considered a viable alternative to Koji Uehara as Red Sox closer, has been designated for assignment, paving the way for the likely promotion of rookie Matt Barnes from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Barnes was to have started for the PawSox Thursday afternoon in Toledo, but he was scratched from that start and used out of the bullpen Wednesday night. He pitched a scoreless eighth inning, allowing two hits while striking out one.

Mujica was signed to a two-year, $9.5 million deal by the Sox after the 2013 season, when he saved 37 games for St. Louis but was left off the World Series roster by the Cardinals, a red flag the Sox discounted by attributing his late-season decline to some shoulder fatigue.

But Mujica fell far short of Sox expectations, from his second appearance of the season, when he entered the ninth inning of a tie game in the home opener and gave up four runs. He was scored upon in six of his first 10 appearances, finished the month of April with a 10.00 ERA, and quickly was relegated to a much lesser role.

He pitched much better in the season’s second half, posting a 1.78 ERA in 29 appearances, but became expendable when he got off to a shaky start again this season. He had a 4.61 ERA in 11 appearances, and had allowed 15 hits, including three home runs, to the 56 batters he faced.

The Sox embark on a three-city, 10-game trip that begins Friday night in Toronto. By the time they return, there will likely be other roster moves. Outfielder Shane Victorino, who has not played since April 22 because of a strained right hamstring, is expected to join the club in Oakland next Monday if his rehab assignment goes as planned Friday and Saturday. His return probably will mean the Sox will demote one of their three lefty relievers, with Tommy Layne the most likely candidate.

Meanwhile, Rusney Castillo continues to make progress in his return from a shoulder strain in Pawtucket, and Jackie Bradley Jr. is batting .341 entering play Thursday for the PawSox. Daniel Nava has been in a horrific slump. After collecting five hits in his first 16 at-bats, Nava has just one hit in his last 26 at-bats and is hitless in his last 18 at-bats. Last season, when he opened the season 10 for 67, the Sox quickly pulled the plug on him, demoting him to Pawtucket. He came back in late May, was sent back down again, then returned to the Sox for good in June and led the team with a .308 average for the rest of the season.

He has had just 42 at-bats so far this season, with six hits, for a .143 average. But Brock Holt, who got off to a great start, also has cooled off, going just 3 for 25 (.120) on the team’s recently completed 3-6 homestand. And Allen Craig, who started two straight games in left since Hanley Ramirez sprained his left shoulder, is just now showing signs of getting untracked. He is batting .156 (7 for 45).