Valentine faces balancing act with Sox roster

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Valentine faces balancing act with Sox roster

BOSTON -- For the time being, Bobby Valentine's job as manager is one big balancing act.
He's currently playing with 24 men as the Red Sox try to determine if Dustin Pedroia needs to go on the disabled list. Until then, his middle infield options are scant.
Then there's the logjam at the corner infield spots. If Valentine wants both Will Middlebrooks and Kevin Youkilis in the lineup together, it means he has to play Adrian Gonzalez in right field.
That, too, has it's drawbacks because while Gonzalez has played far better than many expected, his slowness afoot can be costly.
In the seventh inning, Gonzalez had to run a long way on a blooper hit by Miguel Cabrera. Gonzalez laid out and cradled the ball for an instant, but then dropped it for a game-tying double.
Gonzalez made up for it the next inning when he hooked a ground rule double to right, putting the Sox ahead to stay in their 6-4 win over the Tigers.
Every night Gonzalez is on right, Valentine must determine when to lift him for a defensive upgrade. Wednesday night, he didn't replace Gonzalez in the top of the seventh with the Sox leading 4-3, reasoning that Gonzalez could hit the next inning.
It's a loaded question every time.
"Leave him in... let Youk stay in... have Youk go to third... I don't know," said Valentine. "I'm with (bench coach Tim Bogar), we're talking through it from the third inning on. We're seeing the matchup, we're seeing the bullpen, the swings, what could happen, what might develop. We have guys prepared for making a move that we want.
"We looked at each other (after the) sixth and said, 'Do we do it now?' I figured no, too early, he's going to get up again. He got up again (in the seventh), hit it over the fence on a hop and I said, 'That's enough.'"
For his part, Gonzalez doesn't involve himself in the strategy discussions. He just does what he's told.
"We joke around and say, 'who's the one who's going to play the Little League game (six innings) today?' " joked Gonzalez. "It's just good that we can have a better offensive team out there and when it's time, we make the switch."
Wednesday night, the four hitters -- counting DH David Ortiz -- accounted for all six Red Sox runs, with Ortiz and Middlebrooks driving in two each and Youkilis and Gonzalez adding one apiece.
For that kind of production, Valentine will continue to juggle whatever he must.

Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

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Quotes, notes and stars: Red Sox 7, White Sox 3

Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

QUOTES

* "Where five days ago, he was able to harness things and command the baseball a little better, tonight that was not the case.'' - John Farrell on Henry Owens.

* "That was a momentum shift for us.'' - Farrell on the inning-ending double play that ended the fifth, with Mookie Betts throwing out Brett Lowrie at the plate.

* "They've done outstanding work, when our backs have been against the wall with some early exits by starters.'' Farrell on the bullpen contributions.

* "It's disappointing, (after) working hard on my mechanics the last five days.'' - Owens on his command struggles.

* "It's good to win a series, for sure, against this team.'' - Xander Bogaerts on the win.

NOTES

* Seven different Red Sox hitters produced an RBI.

* The Red Sox are 9-2 in their last 11 and 11-4 in their last 15.

* Hanley Ramirez, who homered for the second time in his last two games, has nine RBI in his last nine games.

* Jackie Bradley Jr. extended his hitting streak to 11 straight games.

* The Sox became the first team to beat the White Sox two games in a row at home.

STARS

1) Matt Barnes

Barnes picked up the win in relief, contributing five big outs in the middle innings and stabilizing the game for the Red Sox bullpen.

2) Dustin Pedroia

After going hitless Wednesday night in the cleanup spot, Pedroia was back in the No. 2 hole and got the Sox off on the right foot with a solo homer in the top of the first. He later added two more hits.

3) Hanley Ramirez

Returning from a one-game absence, Ramirez belted his second homer in as many games and also worked two walks, a good sign for someone who not long ago was too often expanding the strike zone.

First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

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First impressions: Red Sox bullpen picks up the slack in 7-3 win

CHICAGO -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 7-3 win over the White Sox:

* Henry Owens doesn't throw enough strikes to remain in the rotation.

Owens's time was coming to an end anyway, what with the imminent return of Eduardo Rodriguez.

But Owens may have pitched his way out of another start with his outing Thursday night. He faced 16 hitters and walked six hitters.

In every inning he began, he allowed the leadoff hitter to reach. This, despite his teammates scoring runs for him in every previous half inning.

* For a team without a lot of homers, the Red Sox hit their share Thursday night.

The Sox came into the game tied for 11th in homers in the American League, then hit three in the first six innings.

Each one of the homers -- by Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez and Jackie Bradley - came with the bases empty, but together, they helped the Red Sox hold off the White Sox.

Ramirez's homer was particularly encouraging, since it was his second in the last three nights, and like the one he hit on Tuesday, was hit to the opposite field.

* The bullpen picked up a lot of slack.

When the Henry Owens Walkfest mercifully ended in the fourth inning, the Red Sox still had 18 outs to get.

Heath Hembree stumbled some, allowing a run on five hits -- the first run he's allowed this season -- but Matt Barnes, Junichi Tazawa, Robbie Ross. Jr took it from there, chipping in for the final 4 1/3 innings, all scoreless.

Thus far this season, the Red Sox have won four games in which their starter failed to get to the fifth inning. Some of that is a tribute to the offense, which has rallied a few times to make up early deficits.

But it's also due in part to the bullpen, which has provided quality relief and bought time for the offense to catch up.

* The Sox continue to play well on the road.

Through the first four road series, the Red Sox are 4-0-1, having done no worse than a split in their road sets to date.

Learning to win on the road now can be a useful trait for this team in the second half, when the schedule has them playing far more games away from home in the final two and a half months of the season.

* Boston had a balanced offensive attack.

Every member of the starting lineup except one Thursday had either an extra-base hit or a sacrifice fly. Leadoff hitter Mookie Betts, who continues to run hot and cold, was the only starter without one or the other, though he did have a single, walk twice and score a run.

In all, seven different players recorded one RBI.