Sox Notebook: Ortiz, Buchholz, and Ciriaco

814164.jpg

Sox Notebook: Ortiz, Buchholz, and Ciriaco

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Interleague play may be over, but that doesn't necessarily mean that David Ortiz's playing time at first base is also done.

With Adrian Gonzalez likely to miss a third straight game Sunday with spasms in his lower back, Bobby Valentine broadly hinted thar Ortiz could play first in Gonzalez's absence.

"I haven't approached him with it yet,'' said Valentine, "but I checked his health. I think (Sunday), with the righthander (James Shields), there's a chance of him doing that -- if he's rearing to go.''

Brent Lillibridge will start at first Saturday night.

Valentine was asked about other first base options and cited both utility man Nick Punto and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia as possible choices. Both have played first in the majors.

The Sox had to make a move to get Clay Buchholz on the active roster and optioned Mauro Gomez back to Pawtucket to create an opening.

Gomez had been recalled while the team was without the use of third baseman Will Middlebrooks (hamstring).

Gomez hit .308 with three RBI in 26 at-bats and made his first appearances at third base -- at any level -- since 2009. Gomez started at first in the series opener and was charged with an error.

Second baseman Pedro Ciriaco's start has been historic by some statistical measures.

He's the first Red Sox player to get three or more hits in at least three of his first four games. He also stole a base in each of his last three games, becoming the first Red Sox player ever with least three hits and a stolen base in three straight games.

Finally, he's the first major leaguer to do that since Johnny Damon did it with Kansas City from Aug. 5-7, 2000. The only player to ever accomplish the feat (three hits and a steal) in four games was Hall of Famer Ty Cobb.

Monday's Red Sox vs. Orioles lineups: Ortiz back from sore foot

red-sox.jpg

Monday's Red Sox vs. Orioles lineups: Ortiz back from sore foot

David Ortiz makes his return to the Red Sox lineup after being a late scratch on Sunday due to a sore left foot is sore after getting hit by a pitch Saturday. However, Hanley Ramirez is getting the day off, with Travis Shaw getting the start at first.

The lineups:

ORIOLES:
Adam Jones CF
Hyun Soo Kim LF
Manny Machado SS
Chris Davis 1B
Mark Trumbo DH
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Nolan Reimold RF
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Caleb Joseph C
--
Tyler Wilson P

RED SOX:
Mookie Betts RF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
David Ortiz DH
Jackie Bradley Jr. CF
Travis Shaw 1B
Blake Swihart LF
Ryan Hanigan C
Marco Hernandez 3B
---
Steven Wright P

Red Sox haven't allowed opponents to break out the brooms

usatsi_9315771.jpg

Red Sox haven't allowed opponents to break out the brooms

Through the first sixteen series of the season, the Red Sox are 9-5-3 (two ties coming from two-game sets) en route to their AL East leading 30-20 record.

Boston’s only mustered up two series sweeps -- taking two in Atlanta and three from the Yankees at Fenway -- but they’ve avoided the dreaded broom in each of their five series losses.

In fact, in four of their five series losses the Red Sox earned their lone victory in the final game, with Sunday being the most recent instance.

None of the series finale, sweep-defying wins were cakewalks either. Three of the four were decided by three runs or less -- the other being decided by four.

Boston’s MLB-leading 5.9 runs per game offense scored below its average each time -- so Red Sox pitching didn’t have the same gigantic cushion it’s used to.

Prior to his injury, Joe Kelly was the first savior, chucking five innings allowing two earned runs against a Baltimore Orioles team that was undefeated at that point in the season’s youth. Fast forward to the series at Yankee Stadium and Steven Wright nearly through a shutout, holding the Yankees to one run through nine innings.

In the two most recent cases, David Price’s turn came in the lineup -- and he’s answered the call. Boston’s ace held down both the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays -- on the road -- limiting both offenses to two runs each. Both starts have come the day after one-run losses, too.

So while Price’s “stuff” hasn’t been at its best, admitting Sunday it usually isn’t against the Blue Jays, he’s displayed the intangible aces are supposed to have – guts.

Now on any other team, they might be in trouble given Boston’s offense is the best in baseball. Because a bad scoring day for the Red Sox is better than almost half the league’s average day. But they aren’t on any other team, so that’s not the issue.

For all the struggles the Red Sox’ starting pitchers have dealt with, they’ve managed to get the job done when they’ve needed it.

Those wins add up, too.

If the Red Sox are swept in these four series, they sit at 26-24 right in the middle of the AL East -- and this season has an entirely different feel to it.

In an age where numbers have become the central focus of the game, Boston’s starting pitchers have managed to lock-in when the club needs it most -- and must continue to do so.

Nick Friar can be followed on Twitter @ngfriar.