Valentine faces balancing act with Sox roster

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Valentine faces balancing act with Sox roster

BOSTON -- For the time being, Bobby Valentine's job as manager is one big balancing act.
He's currently playing with 24 men as the Red Sox try to determine if Dustin Pedroia needs to go on the disabled list. Until then, his middle infield options are scant.
Then there's the logjam at the corner infield spots. If Valentine wants both Will Middlebrooks and Kevin Youkilis in the lineup together, it means he has to play Adrian Gonzalez in right field.
That, too, has it's drawbacks because while Gonzalez has played far better than many expected, his slowness afoot can be costly.
In the seventh inning, Gonzalez had to run a long way on a blooper hit by Miguel Cabrera. Gonzalez laid out and cradled the ball for an instant, but then dropped it for a game-tying double.
Gonzalez made up for it the next inning when he hooked a ground rule double to right, putting the Sox ahead to stay in their 6-4 win over the Tigers.
Every night Gonzalez is on right, Valentine must determine when to lift him for a defensive upgrade. Wednesday night, he didn't replace Gonzalez in the top of the seventh with the Sox leading 4-3, reasoning that Gonzalez could hit the next inning.
It's a loaded question every time.
"Leave him in... let Youk stay in... have Youk go to third... I don't know," said Valentine. "I'm with (bench coach Tim Bogar), we're talking through it from the third inning on. We're seeing the matchup, we're seeing the bullpen, the swings, what could happen, what might develop. We have guys prepared for making a move that we want.
"We looked at each other (after the) sixth and said, 'Do we do it now?' I figured no, too early, he's going to get up again. He got up again (in the seventh), hit it over the fence on a hop and I said, 'That's enough.'"
For his part, Gonzalez doesn't involve himself in the strategy discussions. He just does what he's told.
"We joke around and say, 'who's the one who's going to play the Little League game (six innings) today?' " joked Gonzalez. "It's just good that we can have a better offensive team out there and when it's time, we make the switch."
Wednesday night, the four hitters -- counting DH David Ortiz -- accounted for all six Red Sox runs, with Ortiz and Middlebrooks driving in two each and Youkilis and Gonzalez adding one apiece.
For that kind of production, Valentine will continue to juggle whatever he must.

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.