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.
Former major leaguer Andy Marte, a one-time top prospect in the Red Sox organization, was killed in a car crash in the Dominican Republic on Sunday. He was 33.
Marte was killed the same day that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Ventura was 25. Coincidentally, Ventura was the Royals starting pitcher in Marte's final major league game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.
Marte, drafted by the Braves in 2000, was ranked the No. 9 prospect in baseball in 2005 when the third baseman was traded to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent shortstop Edgar Renteria to Atlanta and Marte became the top-ranked prospect in the Red Sox organization.
Marte was traded by the Red Sox to the Indians in 2006 in the deal that sent Coco Crisp to Boston and spent five seasons with Cleveland. His best season was 2009 (.232, six home runs, 25 RBI in 47 games). After a six-game stint with Arizona in 2014, he played in South Korea the past two years.
Metropolitan traffic authorities in the Dominican told the Associated Press that Marte died when a car he was driving his a house along the highway between San Francisco de Macoris and Pimentel, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of the capital.
Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car crash in in the Dominican Republic on Sunday morning, according to multiple reports. Ventura was 25 years old.
Highway patrol spokesman Jacobo Mateo told the Associated Press that Ventura died on a highway leading to the town of Juan Adrian, about 40 miles (70 kilometers) northwest of Santo Domingo. He says it's not clear if Ventura was driving.
Ventura was killed the same day former major leaguer Andy Marte died in a separate car crash in the Dominican. Coincidentally, Ventura was the starting pitcher in Marte's final MLB game, for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Aug. 6, 2014.
Ventura was 13-8 with a 4.08 ERA for the Royals' 2015 World Series champions and 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 starts in 2016. The right-hander made his major league debut in 2013 and in 2014 went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA for Kansas City's A.L. pennant winners.
Ironically, Ventura paid tribute to his good friend and fellow Dominican, Oscar Tavares, who was also killed in a car crash in the D.R. in October 2014, by wearing Tavares' initials and R.I.P. on his cap before Ventura's start in Game 6 of the World Series in 2014.
Ventura is the second current major league player to die in the past five months. Former Miami Marlins ace Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident in Miami on Sept. 25.