When Ben Cherington shipped Josh Reddick and a couple of prospects to the Athletics for Andrew Bailey and Ryan Sweeney on Wednesday, the general manager moved the primary candidate to patrol right field at Fenway Park.
Enter Sweeney as one new candidate. The outfielder is known as a defensive specialist, considering he's only clubbed 14 homers and 169 RBIs during his six years in the majors. For now, Cherington is relying on Sweeney's defensive prowess to bridge the gap until a long-term solution emerges.
"Ryan Sweeney we expect to be a big part of our outfield mix," Cherington said. "His versatility is kind of like Reddick, really, both of them can play both outfield spots. Sweeney has played in a big ballpark in Oakland and handled the defensive part of the game well."
"We also really like his offensive approach to Fenway. He's got an opposite field approach."
The darkhorse in the race for right field is Mike Aviles. An infielder for the majority of his career, Aviles has dabbled in the outfield during winter ball in Puerto Rico — at the Red Sox's request — to hone his skills in preparation for a full-time move.
But Ryan Kalish, who suffered a torn shoulder muscle last season, could also benefit from the trade and platoon with Sweeney this season. During 53 games in 2010, he showed promise as an outfielder, clubbing four home runs and 24 RBIs for Boston.
Regardless of the long-term options, new closer Andrew Bailey endorsed Sweeney's candidacy in the outfield and believes his A's teammate will be an asset to the Red Sox.
"He's obviously a really, really good defender," Bailey said. "Last year, he didn't play too much. He's a guy that has a ton of potential, one of the best defensive players in all of baseball. If you look at his stats, he's a big-time singles and doubles guy. He doesn't really drive the ball out of the ballpark, but he can get things done. He's a guy that brings a lot of good character to the clubhouse. Not an ego guy."
That attitude could be vital considering the uncertainty at the position. With Sweeney, Aviles, Kalish and Darnell McDonald vying for the job, it will be one of the most intriguing competitions in spring training.