Valentine pleased with youngsters' progress

Valentine pleased with youngsters' progress
June 22, 2012, 10:41 pm
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BOSTON -- Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said before Friday night's game at Fenway Park against the Atlanta Braves that he was going with the hot hand and keeping Will Middlebrooks in the lineup at third base.

In reality, he's going with three hot hands on Friday night.

Middlebrooks starts at third and hits seventh, but also, Ryan Kalish starts in center field and hits eighth, while Daniel Nava starts in left field and hits leadoff.

It wasn't long ago that all three were in the minors. Now, they're in Boston. And they're not just on the team. They're major contributors.

"I think each guy on the team knows that when the game starts, they have a responsibility, that, they have to do their job," said Valentine before Friday's game. And the young guys, to the man, and the older guys, to the man, have done what it's taken to win some games.

"The rookies' contributions, if you will -- and I don't know who really qualifies -- but the guys that I think of as rookies have really stepped up to the plate. And I look forward to watching them play."

All three played major roles in leading the Red Sox to their fifth straight win on Thursday night, against the Miami Marlins at Fenway.

Middlebrooks went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBI in Boston's 6-5 win on Thursday.

"Today I'm riding the hot hand," said Valentine on his decision to keep Middlebrooks in the lineup after a big night on Thursday. "Tomorrow might not be the case. And I always reserve the right to change my mind."

Kalish went 1-for-3 with a walk on Thursday and scored the winning run. It was his fourth run scored in four games since returning from an injury. Nava went 2-for-4 with a walk on Thursday, and drove in that winning run.

Valentine says he had no expectations from Nava because Nava wasn't even on his radar to begin the season. But Kalish? Valentine knew the report on him, and now that he gets to see it on the field, he's enjoying what he sees.

"I'm still watching Kalish, but every day I see a little something different," said Valentine. "What's there not to like? He hasn't given away an at-bat yet."