ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For the first three months of the Red Sox season, Mike Aviles was out of the starting lineup fourtimes.
On the current road trip, now six games old, he's been out for the same number: four.
The Sox are trying to get a better look at rookie shortstop Jose Iglesias, and Aviles has been squeezed out of the lineup as a result.
He played second base the first game in Toronto while Dustin Pedroia was on paternity leave, and returned to shortstop the next night. But Aviles has been absent from the lineup the last four games.
"Pretty hard (balancing act),'' conceded Bobby Valentine of determing playing time for the two. "Mike really wants to play and I understand that totally. But Iggy's gotten on a little roll here so I'd just like to see if that roll can continue. It's tough, though. Really tough.''
Iglesias has had better at-bats of late and has drawn walks in three of his last five starts, but remains hitless on the trip.
When asked if had given consideration to playing Aviles at third base, enabling both Aviles and Iglesias to play in the same infield, Valentine said: "I'm not sure that's fair to (Aviles) - he hasn't taken a ground ball there all year.''
Pedro Ciriaco, who has started all six of the games on the road trip at third base, likely will play the outfield in Thursday's road trip finale.
"I think he's going to be play there (Thursday),'' said Valentine.
Valentine was unsure where Ciriaco would play. Left field would be the least challenging for him, but Jacoby Ellsbury, who has started the last six games on turf -- three at Toronto's Rogers Centre and three at Tropicana Field -- might be in need of a night off.
Ciriaco played some outfield in spring training and has made one start this season in left field, when the Sox were short of outfielders.
"Is it OK to put him out there? Is it fair to the starting pitcher?'' wondered Valentine. "I don't know... I don't know. Maybe. If he makes a great play, it is.''
Ciriaco could improve his value to the Sox -- or another team -- if he could learn to play the outfield and offer more versatility.
"That's more like a winter-time, spring training project,'' said Valentine, "if he's going to be an all-purpose guy or something like that. But he's there to play there. I guess (that would make him) pretty valuable. I don't know what the shape of our team will be next year. He could play out there, I'd be willing to bet.''
James Loney came into Wednesday night hitting just .263 with a homer and six RBI in 19 starts for the Sox, but he's opened some eyes with his glove.
Loney has shown himself to be smooth at the position, with good range toward second and a strong throwing arm.
"Adrian (Gonzalez) is a tough comparison,'' said Valentine of Loney's predecessor, for whom he was traded last month, "in that (Gonzalez) positions himself differently and he's excellent. But after watching Loney, I think his glove is comparable. The throw he made to second on the double play (Monday) night was excellent. I hadn't seen him throw a lot, but fielding, he's very good.''