Valentine faces balancing act with Sox roster

Valentine faces balancing act with Sox roster
May 31, 2012, 5:44 am
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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.