Justin Masterson’s Role With Red Sox In Return From DL Still Up In Air

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BOSTON — Justin Masterson’s rehab journey is without a clear final destination.

Masterson, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 14 with right shoulder tendinitis, is nearing his return to the Red Sox. The right-hander pitched exclusively as a starter before landing on the DL, but he might soon transition to the bullpen. Masterson’s future role with Boston has “yet to be determined,” manager John Farrell said before Saturday’s game against the Oakland Athletics at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox’s rotation already is crowded, with the club expected to soon choose between Joe Kelly and Steven Wright for the fifth and final spot. Boston has been rolling with a six-man rotation of late, as Eduardo Rodriguez forced the issue with a brilliant major league debut against the Texas Rangers and followed it with an equally as impressive second career start against the Minnesota Twins.

Thus, it’s likely Masterson won’t have a rotation spot waiting for him when he returns. The 30-year-old went 2-2 with a 6.37 ERA in seven starts before landing on the shelf, so perhaps the Red Sox will test whether a new job can revitalize his season. Masterson has pitched in relief in the past.

For now, however, the Red Sox are stretching out Masterson as if he’ll be a starter. He threw 80 pitches in a rehab start Friday with Double-A Portland, which, according to Farrell, is the minimum someone must throw during a rehab outing before returning to a starting role.

Masterson is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Sunday, after which Farrell and the Red Sox expect to have a clearer outlook on Masterson’s future and whether he’ll need another rehab appearance.

“In talking with (pitching coach) Kevin Walker in Portland, there was some increase in consistency to the action to his sinker. But that really started to settle in, in the third inning,” Farrell said of Masterson’s most recent rehab start. “The first couple of innings, it was kind of getting his feet on the ground and getting a feel for the game. … We wouldn’t want that to show up in a major league game.”

Masterson struggled with Boston earlier this season, and his rehab assignment hasn’t been overly impressive. The Red Sox aren’t giving up on the veteran hurler, though, even if they’re no longer sure how exactly he fits into their 2015 plans.

Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Images

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