NEW YORK — Junichi Tazawa, the promising righthanded pitcher signed out of Japan’s Industrial League in the offseason, was added to the Red Sox’ roster tonight, replacing the ineffective John Smoltz, who was designated for assignment.
The Red Sox also claimed infielder Chris Woodward off waivers from the Seattle Mariners, with lefthanded pitcher Billy Traber designated for assignment to clear a roster spot.
Tazawa is in New York and will be available in the Red Sox the bullpen tonight. The team has not yet named a starter to replace Smoltz on Tuesday, but Tazawa curently appears to be the leading candidate.
“Given everything that’s going on with the club right now, I don’t think it’s possible to make any definitive statements,” Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein, who flew to New York this morning, said before the game. “Because we’re at a challenging time and things have gone not as anticipated the last few weeks, it’s certainly day-to-day with a lot of things, if not inning-to-inning or pitch-to-pitch. Last night, we made Verizon a lot of money with the cell phones, given all that was going on. We were trying to find a way to field a full roster for today and make things work.”
The rise to the major leagues has been rapid for the 23-year-old Tazawa. He was was signed by the Red Sox as an amateur free agent Dec. 11, 2008, agreeing to a three-year contract worth $3.3 million. He became a free agent after teams in Japan’s professional leagues honored his request and did not draft him so he could pitch in the United States.
“[Tazawa] wouldn’t be here if we didn’t think he could handle it,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said before tonight’s game. “He’s a little bit of a unique guy.”
Tazawa began the season at Double A Portland, where he excelled, going 9-5 in 18 starts with a 2.57 ERA. He was named to the 2009 Eastern League All-Star team and the MLB Futures Game in St. Louis, where he was slated to be the starting pitcher before rain washed out his appearance.
His nine wins were tied for second in the league and his 88 strikeouts were tied for third in the EL when he was promoted to Triple A Pawtucket on July 26.
He has lost both of his starts at Pawtucket, but he has a 2.38 ERA and has limited batters to a .184 average. One of his primary attributes is his command — he walked 26 in 98 innings at Portland and just one in 11.1 innings so far for the PawSox.
“I think there are a lot of people in the organization who really think this kid can help us win games,” Francona said.
Woodward, a 33-year-old veteran of 10 major league seasons, batted .239 with no home runs in 67 at-bats for Seattle. He has played 316 games at shortstop in his career, but just one this season.
He is a lifetime .243 hitter with 33 home runs in 627 games while playing for the Blue Jays, Mets and Braves before joining the Mariners. Woodward had been designated for assignment. He had spent a few days with his family, and he was getting ready to travel to Tacoma, the Mariners’ Triple A affiliate, when he received a surprise call from the Red Sox.
“You don’t know what teams need you, what might have happened in the few days that you’re out,” Woodward said. “I had never been designated before, so it was kind of a new experience for me, so i was excited.”
Traber, 29, pitched one game for the Red Sox, allowing nine hits and five earned runs in 3.2 innings of the Red Sox’ 13-6 loss to New York.
Chad Finn and Tony Massarotti of the Globe staff contributed to this report.