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.