The player Sox brass wanted to win the job, Charlie Tilson, has been sidelined since Feb. 19 with a stress reaction in his right foot. The injury wasn't initially thought to be serious, but a follow-up MRI on Monday revealed swelling. Tilson will miss at least the next three weeks, and that means he will be on the 15-day disabled list when the season starts April 3.
That makes the veteran Bourjos the top candidate for center field, even though he is in camp as a nonroster invitee. The Sox have two spots open on their 40-man roster, and it appears that one of them is his to lose at this point.
Bourjos, 29, hit .251/.292/.389 in 383 plate appearances with the Philadelphia Phillies last year. He can handle center field defensively, but there's a reason he's on a minor-league deal: He's not a good hitter; his career on-base percentage is .300, and his OBP has hovered in the .290s for each of the past three seasons.
To his credit, Bourjos has had a good spring; he's 10-for 27, which pencils out to a .370 batting average. It should come as no surprise, however, that he has yet to draw a walk. But right now, he looks as if he's the best option for the position as a veteran stopgap.
Other options in camp include a pair of 25-year-olds -- Jacob May and Adam Engel. Both are good enough defensively to play center field, but both have uneven offensive track records.
May has had the better spring, posting a .333/.375/.433 slash line in 32 plate appearances. Engel has struggled to .130/.310/.130 in 30 plate appearances.
Engel hit .242/.298/.369 in 161 plate appearances at Triple-A Charlotte last year, while May hit .266/.309/.352 in 321 trips to the plate.
Based upon last season and what we've seen so far in camp, May seems the better bet to win a roster spot than Engel. But, there still are three weeks until Opening Day, and things can change.