Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said the unusual lineup mixture that saw Kevin Youkilis at first base and Adrian Gonzalez in right field on Tuesday night is not “an everyday thing.”
The combination was necessitated by a rash of injuries that has crippled the Red Sox’ outfield depth, and allowed rookie Will Middlebrooks to stay in the lineup at third base after the man he replaced, Youkilis, returned from the disabled list.
“I think it’s something that can be used throughout the year, but no I don’t think it’s an everyday solution” Valentine said during his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Dennis & Callahan show.
Middlebrooks’ stay at third base still might not be a long-term one, Valentine said. He said he and Red Sox GM Ben Cherington agree that Youkilis won’t be pushed aside for the hot-hitting rookie.
“I totally am on board with Ben’s take (that Youkilis would not lose his job to injury),” Valentine said. “Kevin’s going to play third base. This is a situation that arose out of necessity, not out of choice. We’re lucky to have a guy as versatile as Kevin to play on both sides of the infield and a guy as willing and versatile as Adrian who would move from first to right field to allow us to line those guys up for a while.”
The Red Sox manager expressed a few concerns with having Gonzalez in the outfield, but nothing that is stopping him from using doing it again. Valentine filled out his initial lineup card with Youkilis back at first base and Gonzalez in right field for Wednesday’s matinee.
Valentine did not rule out having the speed-challenged Gonzalez play in Fenway Park’s spacious right field.
“Adrian is a very astute baseball player,” Valentine said. “He positions himself as well as anyone I’ve seen in the outfield in the two games he’s played there. He understands the hitters that we’re playing against and he’s moving more than normal, so if we pitch properly and the guy hits it where they’re supposed to, I think that he’ll be able to close a gap, but there’s no way of covering all the ground because of a lack of foot speed.”
Valentine did not embrace the idea of having Gonzalez play left field because of the added challenge of having a different view of the ball coming off the hitter’s bat on the left side of the field, but wasn’t ruling out having the All-Star first baseman seeing substantial playing time in right field while the outfield injury crisis continues.
“We had a situation where Adrian, to try to allow the team to win, was volunteering to pitch,” he said, “and the relationship I’ve had with Adrian from the first day of spring training has been one where he communicates his thoughts freely and he has thoughts every day on what could be the best thing and the best solution for our team and when this situation presented itself, it was eye contact was all that was needed and he came walking in and said ‘if you’re thinking about me in right field, go for it. I’ll come out tomorrow and take fly balls.’”
Valentine indicated Middlebrooks would be on the Red Sox bench rather than be sent back to Triple-A Pawtucket once Youkilis moves back to third. Middlebrooks has hit .286 with five home runs and 16 RBIs since arriving.
“On occasion that probably will happen,” Valentine said. “I don’t know [if he’d go to Triple-A]. We’ll see how the usage is being executed. I think we just have a situation where we have to play this by ear. This isn’t something that was planned out over the winter or even was planned out last week or two weeks ago when Will first came up and Kevin first went on the disabled list. This is a work-in-progress. We’ll adjust to it as the situation presents itself.”