Red Sox notes: Valentine experiments with Ciriaco

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Red Sox notes: Valentine experiments with Ciriaco

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Bobby Valentine decided to experiment with Pedro Ciriaco in center field Thursday night. It didn't lastlong or go particularly well.
Ciriaco, an infielder by trade, played center field for a game in spring training and was used in left field for one game during the season, was making his regular season debut in center.
In the second inning, however, Ciriaco nearly collided with Daniel Nava on a line drive by Evan Longoria. As both players pulled up short, the ball fell between them for a double.
It got worse in the third when B.J. Upton hit a routine fly ball to center and Ciriaco seemed to never pick the ball out of the backdrop of the Tropicana Field, allowing the ball to fall in five feet in front of him.
When the Sox took the field in the bottom of the fourth, Jacoby Ellsury, who had been scheduled to have the night off after sevenstraight games on artificial turf (Toronto and here), replaced Ciriaco in center.
It meant a change in position, but Mike Aviles was at least back in the starting lineup Thursday, getting his first start of the seasonat third base after being out of the lineup for four of the previous five games on the road trip.
Aviles had lost playing time to Jose Iglesias, whom the Sox want to evaluate as much as they can in the final month of the season.
Manager Bobby Valentine checked with Aviles to see if he was comfortable at third after not playing there -- or getting work there -- all season. Aviles assured him he could handle it.
"Mike's played great,'' said Valentine. "He's played more than he's ever played and he's played consistently. His defense has been, I think, amazing. Offensively, he's been very productive.
"Obviously, the walks aren't there (just 22 in 500 at-bats), but he's gotten big hits and he's run the bases well. He should be very proud of the way he's played. I'm also proud -- and happy for him.''

Just two months ago, it seemed that Scott Atchison was destined to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
Instead, Atchison opted to rehab the elbow and has returned to the Sox bullpen this month.
He made an appearance Wednesday night and tossed 1 23 perfect innings. Since coming off the DL on Sept. 12, he's pitched 2 23 scoreless innings.
''Looks like he can still do it,'' marveled Valentine. "His velocity seems about the same (as it was before the layoff).''
Atchison holds a 1.68 ERA for the season and hasn't allowed an earned run in 28 of his last 32 appearances.

Drellich: Red Sox play the waiting game as deadline approaches

Drellich: Red Sox play the waiting game as deadline approaches

BOSTON -- Doug Fister’s start on Thursday was the clearest reason an 8-6 Red Sox loss to the Blue Jays felt like a bridge day. He was there to give some rest to the other starters, which was a worthy idea. But Fister’s command was poor enough to make that decision questionable.

Presumably, Fister’s time as starter for the Sox is now over, although manager John Farrell was noncommittal afterward.

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Add it to the list of reasons the Red Sox look like a team in limbo at the moment. They’re in first place, while simultaneously playing a waiting game.

Whom the Sox acquire before the non-waiver trade deadline at the end of the month, and how long they wait to pull off a deal, looms large. Because even though the offense has looked better the last two days, it was still the primary drawback during a 4-4 homestand within the division.

Chris Sale and David Price will be on the mound to start a three-game weekend series against the Angels in Anaheim, so at least a feeling of normalcy should return.

“Back to the top of the rotation,” Farrell said. “We’ve got a chance to hopefully catch up with some recovery days down that bullpen. Anytime Chris and David are walking to the mound, we feel like we're extremely confident.”

But now, someone new needs to walk through the clubhouse door. Someone will, too -- it’s just a matter of when, lest Dave Dombrowski’s m.o. all of a sudden changes 40-plus years into his career.

There’s no confusion about what should be done.

As nice as it is that Christian Vazquez is capable of playing third base, the Red Sox need to find a situation where they have a third baseman who can start the game and finish it -- where they have someone whose bat is good enough to do so.

Vazquez manning third at the end of Thursday’s game is symbolic of the position on a whole: it’s been left to the warmest body at the moment, rather than someone who truly has a handle on the job.

Top prospect Rafael Devers has been hitting very well in his brief stint at Triple-A Pawtucket, going 8-for-22 (.364) in six games, with a .440 on-base percentage and a pair of home runs. He has four strikeouts compared to three walks.

But considering the way Dombrowski has spoken all season, the Sox seem intent on doing what’s best for Devers’ development rather than rushing the 20-year-old to aid the major league team. And what was right for Devers’ development thus far this season, as the Sox saw it, was three months at Double-A.

Spending only a week in Triple-A, or really anything less than a month, then, would seem hasty. Even a late August or September call-up would be a quick move, relatively speaking.

Barring a change of heart, then, help still needs to come from the outside. Even if the Sox believe in Devers for this year, he would still be an unknown commodity in the big leagues, and the Sox at this point need something more than that.

There’s a piece missing, at least one. Everyone’s waiting to see what comes next, including the clubhouse.

Flubbed popup opens floodgates, helps Blue Jays beat Red Sox, 8-6

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Flubbed popup opens floodgates, helps Blue Jays beat Red Sox, 8-6

BOSTON -- Steve Pearce blooped the ball to the edge of the outfield grass, and Red Sox second baseman Brock Holt was there.

He planted his feet. He raised his arm to catch it.

But something wasn't quite right.

Holt lost the ball in the sun, allowing it to glance off his glove for a two-run single that tied the game as the Toronto Blue Jays rallied from an early deficit to take the lead for good and hold on to beat the Boston Red Sox 8-6 on Thursday.

"As weakly as I hit it, I didn't" expect it to fall, said Pearce, who had three hits. "When you put the ball in the air, sometimes (the fielder) just can't do it. Day game, clear sky. It was a great time for it."

Ryan Goins followed with a two-run single to give the Blue Jays the lead. Justin Smoak homered twice, but it was a 140-foot duck snort that turned things around and allowed Toronto to leave Boston with a split in the four-game series.

"I don't care how hard it's hit, it's a two-RBI knock. Then Goins comes right behind me, keeps things rolling," said Pearce, whose team lost nine of the first 10 games of the season and haven't been above fourth place since. "We've had a lot of things going against us, so it's nice to finally have something go for us."

Dustin Pedroia had three hits, including a three-run homer, while serving as designated hitter on a 90-degree day at the end of a grinding homestand. Including the 15-inning game on Tuesday with Toronto, the AL East-leading Red Sox played 76 innings in about 144 hours - the equivalent of 8 1/2 games in six days.

But it was the sun more than the heat that was the problem, especially for the right fielders and anyone else who tried to field a popup.

"During day games it's always pretty bad for the right side of the field - second basemen, right field," Holt said. "It was one of those balls that wasn't really high enough where I could do anything to move myself and maneuver myself to get that out of the sun. ... I tried to stay with it as long as I could and unfortunately couldn't make the play. So that one's on me."

Dominic Leone (2-0) earned the win. Toronto starter Francisco Liriano got just five outs, allowing three runs in the second, but the Blue Jays came back with four in the third to take a 5-3 lead against Doug Fister (0-4).

Roberto Osuna pitched the ninth for his 24th save.

Smoak has 26 homers and 62 RBIs this season. His previous career highs were 20 and 59.

"We still have 2 1/2 more months left in the season so I just try to keep my head down and keep going," he said.

Smoak's RBI single in the sixth gave Toronto a 7-3 lead, then Pedroia's homer in the seventh made it a one-run game. Smoak added his second homer in the ninth.

Mookie Betts had two hits and two RBIs for Boston.

FOR STARTERS

Liriano gave up three runs - two earned - five hits and a walk, striking out one. He gave up back-to-back doubles to Xander Bogaerts and Sandy Leon, and Betts scored two with a single to give Boston a 3-1 lead in the second.

But the Blue Jays came back with four in the third, when Fister walked four batters and also gave up run-scoring singles to Pearce and Goins. Fister allowed six runs, seven hits and four walks, striking out three in 4 1/3 innings.

SELF DEFENSE

Goins ended the fifth inning when he raised his bat to protect himself from an inside pitch and wound up grounding it back to reliever Fernando Abad. Home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman signaled a fair ball, Abad made the casual throw to first, and Hanley Ramirez, seemingly confused, paused before stepping on the base. Goins remained on his knees in the batter's box, smiling, long after the rest of the players cleared the field.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Blue Jays: RHP Aaron Sanchez left Wednesday night's game with a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand.

Red Sox: Leon was hit in the left foot by Russell Martin's foul tip in the fourth inning. The training staff came out to look at it, and the Boston catcher remained in the game.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: Marco Estrada (4-6) faces Trevor Bauer (7-8) in the opener of a three-game series against Cleveland.

Red Sox: Chris Sale (11-4) will start the opener of a three game series against the Angels, facing Ricky Nolasco (4-10).