Jacoby Ellsbury’s unexpected hip soreness saved Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein from executing a horrible move Tuesday.


As both Ellsbury and Mike Cameron were coming off the disabled list, Epstein was forced to make room on the 25-man roster to accommodate their returns.


When Ellsbury was activated on May 21, Epstein made the rather obvious choice and designated the offensively anemic Jonathan Van Every for assignment. Reacquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates on April 24, Van Every had posted a .211/.286/.421 batting line through 21 plate appearances with the 2010 Sox.


Despite possessing a versatile and competent outfield glove, Van Every never really made sense in the first place, and his performance in Boston simply reinforces that conclusion.


However, when Mike Cameron’s return grew imminent, Epstein was faced with a much more complicated decision.


As far as roster spots go, the natural choice would be to option or DFA (designate for assignment) an outfielder to make room for an outfielder.


Offseason acquisition Jeremy Hermida may be batting only .222/.280/.389, but he’s still the owner of an 8.1 UZR/150 for the 2010 Sox, and he’s earning a none-too-meager $3.3 million this year.


Non-roster invitee turned fan-favorite Darnell McDonald was the only other logical choice. Although the 31-year-old journeyman was batting a more respectable .263/.320/.400, McDonald’s defense left a little to be desired sabermetrically.


In spite of the Fenway Faithful’s love of the former Oriole, McDonald was designated for assignment on May 24. With his positive attitude and hopeful clubhouse presence, the newly capable McDonald surely would have been claimed by another team.


Enter Jacoby Ellsbury’s suddenly aching hip. With Ellsbury’s health again uncertain, Epstein was forced to quickly recall McDonald.


In McDonald’s stead, reliever Scott Atchison—another non-roster invitee—was designated for assignment on May 25.


Actually, ever retaining the 34-year-old Atchison and his 6.10 ERA was a mistake in itself. Keeping an ineffective reliever on the staff and effectively releasing an electrifying utility player instead was tantamount to surrender.


Having Atchison in the bullpen implies that you think you’re going to need him, and a serious contender should never need a guy with Atchison’s pedigree and current level of performance. It’s like throwing in the towel to keep that kind of guy around—like admitting your starters won’t be able to pitch any better than him.


Atchison needed to “get gone,” the Red Sox need McDonald as long as he swings a decent bat, and Epstein needs to get his head examined.


Thank you, Jacoby’s hip.

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