MINNEAPOLIS -- When the Red Sox moved Mike Aviles into the leadoff spot following Jacoby Ellsbury's shoulder injury, they were unsure of what they were going to get.
Aviles' lifetime .318 on-base percentage did not exactly suggest that he was born to hit first, and since moving into the top spot, Aviles has drawn just two walks in those eight games.
But when it comes to hitting, the Red Sox can't complain. Aviles had a four-hit game Tuesday night, knocking in three runs and scoring three runs and is hitting .395 (15-for-38) since being moved to leadoff.
"Michael's been a God-send," said Bobby Valentine. "With Jacoby going down and all of the questions surrounding our squad, to fill that void as seamlessly as he has with outstanding at-bats and production is a tribute to his athleticism and his competitiveness. He's a good player."
Valentine was careful not to have Aviles change his approach in the leadoff spot.
"I told him not to change a thing," said Valentine. "It doesn't matter where he hits in the order. If he stays aggressive, he'll take pitches and he'll also hit them pretty hard when he gets his pitch to hit and that's what he's been doing. I didn't want to take any of his aggressiveness away from him because that's not his style of play."
"In all honesty," said Aviles, "it doesn't matter to me (where I hit). I'm just reaping the benefits right now because I have good guys coming behind me. If I'm hitting ninth, first . . . it doesn't matter. I'm just trying to have good at-bats and get on base because I know if we keep the chain moving, with the guys we have on this team, the offense can explode."
And explode it has. At times, at least. Since Aviles went to leadoff position, the Red Sox have scored six or more runs on five occasions.
"I've been more aggressive in the zone," he said, "I kind of go up there trying to be aggressive until I realize a pitch is going to be a ball. If I go up there trying to take balls, then I find myself behind more often."
Aviles learned from experience last season while with the Kansas City Royals the perils of being too patient in the leadoff spot.
"I tried to do the whole 'see more pitches' (approach)," he said, "and I felt like I put myself in a hole more and it took away from the whole reason of them putting me in that spot. They put me in that spot because of the hitter I was and I didn't want to change that."