The Red Sox announced Monday that they’ve recalled infield prospect Jeter Downs from Triple-A Worcester and designated right-hander James Norwood for assignment.
It’ll be the Major League debut for Downs whenever he first steps onto the field for a game. Acquired alongside Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong in the trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers, Downs was once widely ranked among the sport’s 100 best prospects but has seen his stock tumble following a pair of poor showings in Triple-A. In 53 games so far with the WooSox, the 23-year-old Downs is hitting just .180/.297/.397 with a 31.1% strikeout rate in 222 plate appearances. That actually represents a modest improvement over his struggles in a larger sample during the 2021 campaign. Overall, he’s now tallied 627 Triple-A plate appearances with just a .187/.281/.355 slash to show for it.
Those struggles notwithstanding, Downs will get his first big league look and give the Sox some extra infield depth at a time when both Christian Arroyo and Enrique Hernandez are on the injured list. Major League teams who’d been carrying 14 pitchers also need to cut their pitching staff back to 13 beginning today, and Downs was already on the 40-man roster, making him an easy name to recall. They’ll need a 40-man spot once Arroyo is cleared to return from the Covid-related injured list anyhow, so designating Norwood and briefly giving Downs a taste of the Majors is a sensible — albeit likely short-term — route to take for the time being.
Norwood, acquired from the Phillies for cash over the weekend, never appeared in a game with the Sox before what is now his third DFA in the past three months. The 28-year-old spent the bulk of Spring Training with the Padres but was designated for a late assignment in camp and later traded to Philadelphia for minor league infielder Kervin Pichardo. Norwood showed big velocity, an ability to miss bats and a knack for keeping the ball in the park during his 17 1/3 innings with the Phils. However, he also walked too many hitters, struggled to strand runners (both inherited and those he allowed to reach base), and generally yielded too much hard contact.
In those 17 1/3 frames with Philly, Norwood was tagged for an 8.31 ERA, causing his career mark through 44 1/3 innings to balloon to 5.48. It’s certainly possible that Norwood’s 96.8 mph average fastball and splitter that comes with a 42.7% whiff rate will get him a look from another team, be it via waivers or another small trade. He’s out of minor league options, though, so any interested club will need to carry him on the 40-man roster. The Red Sox will have a week to trade Norwood, attempt to pass him through outright waivers, or release him.