Red Sox notes: Valentine works on balancing act

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Red Sox notes: Valentine works on balancing act

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For the first three months of the Red Sox season, Mike Aviles was out of the starting lineup fourtimes.
On the current road trip, now six games old, he's been out for the same number: four.
The Sox are trying to get a better look at rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias, and Aviles has been squeezed out of the lineup as a result.
He played second base the first game in Toronto while Dustin Pedroia was on paternity leave, and returned to shortstop the next night. But Aviles has been absent from the lineup the last four games.
"Pretty hard (balancing act),'' conceded Bobby Valentine of determing playing time for the two. "Mike really wants to play and I understand that totally. But Iggy's gotten on a little roll here so I'd just like to see if that roll can continue. It's tough, though. Really tough.''
Iglesias has had better at-bats of late and has drawn walks in three of his last five starts, but remains hitless on the trip.
When asked if had given consideration to playing Aviles at third base, enabling both Aviles and Iglesias to play in the same infield, Valentine said: "I'm not sure that's fair to (Aviles) - he hasn't taken a ground ball there all year.''
Pedro Ciriaco, who has started all six of the games on the road trip at third base, likely will play the outfield in Thursday's road trip finale.
"I think he's going to be play there (Thursday),'' said Valentine.
Valentine was unsure where Ciriaco would play. Left field would be the least challenging for him, but Jacoby Ellsbury, who has started the last six games on turf -- three at Toronto's Rogers Centre and three at Tropicana Field -- might be in need of a night off.
Ciriaco played some outfield in spring training and has made one start this season in left field, when the Sox were short of outfielders.
"Is it OK to put him out there? Is it fair to the starting pitcher?'' wondered Valentine. "I don't know... I don't know. Maybe. If he makes a great play, it is.''
Ciriaco could improve his value to the Sox -- or another team -- if he could learn to play the outfield and offer more versatility.
"That's more like a winter-time, spring training project,'' said Valentine, "if he's going to be an all-purpose guy or something like that. But he's there to play there. I guess (that would make him) pretty valuable. I don't know what the shape of our team will be next year. He could play out there, I'd be willing to bet.''

James Loney came into Wednesday night hitting just .263 with a homer and six RBI in 19 starts for the Sox, but he's opened some eyes with his glove.
Loney has shown himself to be smooth at the position, with good range toward second and a strong throwing arm.
"Adrian (Gonzalez) is a tough comparison,'' said Valentine of Loney's predecessor, for whom he was traded last month, "in that (Gonzalez) positions himself differently and he's excellent. But after watching Loney, I think his glove is comparable. The throw he made to second on the double play (Monday) night was excellent. I hadn't seen him throw a lot, but fielding, he's very good.''

Tim Tebow shows solid power, shaky skills in MLB workout

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Tim Tebow shows solid power, shaky skills in MLB workout

LOS ANGELES — Tim Tebow has taken his first big swing at a baseball career, showing off a powerful bat and a few areas of needed improvement in a workout for dozens of major league scouts.

The Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback worked out at the University of Southern California's Dedeaux Field on Tuesday. Scouts and reporters tracked, timed and recorded his every move.

Tebow's 255-pound muscled physique and 6.70-ish time in the 60-yard dash were impressive. So was a series of long homers into the trees and off the scoreboard.

The 29-year-old outfield hopeful also showed he still needs baseball seasoning. Former big-leaguers David Aardsma and Chad Smith repeatedly fooled him with off-speed pitches later in the hitting drills.

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Rays lineups: Pedroia returns, Pomeranz on mound

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Tuesday’s Red Sox-Rays lineups: Pedroia returns, Pomeranz on mound

Dustin Pedroia returns to the lineup after missing two games to attend a family funeral as the Red Sox play the middle game of their three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays tonight at Fenway Park.

Pedroia is back at second base, batting leadoff, as the Red Sox look to make it two in a row coming off a 9-4 victory on Monday night.

Brock Holt, who filled in a second in Pedroia’s absence, moves to left field and Bryan Holaday catches left-hander Drew Pomeranz (10-10, 2.95 ERA) for Boston. Pomeranz struck out a career-high 11 in his last start against the Rays, last Thursday in St. Petersburg. 

Right-hander Jake Odorizzi (9-5, 3.53) starts for the Rays.

The lineups:

RAYS

Logan Forsythe 2B

Kevin Kiermaier CF

Evan Longoria 3B

Brad Miller 1B

Matt Duffy DH

Tim Beckham SS

Scott Souza Jr. RF

Corey Dickerson LF

Luke Maile C

Jake Odorizzi RHP

 

RED SOX

Dustin Pedroia 2B

Xander Bogaerts SS

David Ortiz DH

Mookie Betts RF

Hanley Ramirez 1B

Travis Shaw 3B

Brock Holt LF

Bryan Holaday C

Jackie Bradley Jr. CF

Drew Pomeranz LHP

 

Red Sox welcome Betts’ surprising power surge

Red Sox welcome Betts’ surprising power surge

BOSTON - With one quick flick of his wrists Monday night, Mookie Betts drove a pitch into the Monster Seats, marking his 30th homer of the season.

The homer put Betts into exclusive company in team history. Only two others before him -- Ted Williams and Tony Conigliaro -- had ever reached the 30-homer milestone before turning 24. 

It's a reasonable assumption that, with five weeks still to play in the regular season, Betts will more than double his home run total (18) from last year, a remarkable jump.    

More to the point, Betts wasn't projected as a power hitter. In 2011 and 2012, Betts played the first 72 games of his pro career career without hitting a single homer. 

The power began to manifest itself somewhat the following year when he belted 15 homers between Low-A Greenville and High-A Salem, but still, few envisioned that Betts would show this kind of power at the major league level.

He was athletic, with extra-base capability, and speed. But a 30-home run hitter? That wasn't in the cards.

"That's pretty cool, hitting 30,” allowed Betts after the Red Sox' 9-4 win over Tampa Bay. "But that's not the reason we play.''

 For several minutes, Betts did his best to deflect questions about his milestone, consistently emphasizing team goals "first and foremost” over his own personal achievements.

"Trying to affect the game in some form or fashion,” he shrugged. "We're in a race right now and that's way more important[than individual stats].”

Still, Betts himself acknowledged that his homer total has come as something of a revelation.

"I definitely wasn't expecting [this kind of] power,'' he said. "But I'll take it while it's here.''

Maybe the power explosion shouldn't come as a shock, however. Betts has always demonstrated exceptional strength and fast reflexes, exhibiting the sort of "quick-twitch'' athleticism that make scouts drool.

He's improved his pitch selection and recognition, and it surely hasn't hurt to be part of a powerful Red Sox lineup that currently has him hitting behind David Ortiz and in front of Hanley Ramirez.

"Experience...knowing when and when not to turn on balls,” Betts explained further. "There's a whole bunch of things that kind of go into it.”

As he's gained confidence, Betts now picks certain counts where he allows himself to take bigger swings, though he's careful to  point out that he's not ever trying to hit homers.

"Not necessarily trying to hit a home run,'' he offered, "but trying to drive [the ball]. Those things come with experience and knowing when and when not to. I'm not trying to hit a home run. They just kind of come.''

In this, just his second full season in the big leagues, they're coming more and more frequently -- whether anyone expected it or not.