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Terry Francona on The Big Show: Unsure about Adrian Gonzalez in outfield

06.21.11 at 4:16 pm ET
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When the Red Sox finish up their three-game series with the Padres on Wednesday, they will head to Pittsburgh to begin nine straight games against National League opponents. That’s an obvious dilemma for manager Terry Francona, who has to figure out a way to get David Ortiz in the lineup.

One scenario involves moving first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to right field, but Francona said on his weekly interview with WEEI’s Big Show that there is still much to be considered. Click here to listen to the whole interview.

“David is certainly not going to play nine games,” Francona said. “Gonzie has talked to us and we’ve gone back and forth with him about possibly going to right field. I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m a little bit confused. If we ever send him out there and something bad happens — and by that I don’t meaning a bad play. Do you move JD [Drew]  to left field for a couple of days. He’s never done that. I don’t know. That’s the best answer I can give you. We have a day off before we go to Pittsburgh. There’s a lot of things we need to talk about and then we’ll figure it out. There’s some anxiety. Just being truthful.”

This is a different scenario for Francona than in past years when he could mix and match Mike Lowell, Kevin Youkilis and Ortiz and third and first base. Also, the games in National League parks are consecutive.

“We have nine in a row in the National League. That hasn’t been the case since I’ve been here,” Francona said. “So again it’s going to be something we’ll have to deal with. I’m not excited about it. It puts at a real disadvantage, not just competitively but in keeping David sharp.”

Here’s the rest of the transcript from Francona’s appearance: Read the rest of this entry »

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John Kruk on M&M: ‘Why not use DH the whole time?’

06.21.11 at 12:56 pm ET
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ESPN baseball analyst John Kruk joined the Mut & Merloni show for his regular Tuesday noontime interview, and the biggest discussion was about the interleague play that is once again underway in Major League Baseball. Although the Red Sox are in a three-game set with the Padres at DH-friendly Fenway Park, the guys still wanted to get Kruk’€™s thoughts on the designated hitter rule, and the man who played 10 seasons in the big leagues said he thought the rule should be expanded.

‘€œThat’€™s the thing that has yet to be figured out about interleague is how do we go about fixing the rules,’€ Kruk said. ‘€œI don’€™t know if National League managers would be opposed to it, but why not use the DH the whole time? So you have to use an extra player in the National League? You see how that plays out in the American League. It’€™s not like you’€™re double-switching and all that stuff, so what’€™s the difference? Why can’€™t the National League adopt it? Why can’€™t they do that in the World Series also? Why can’€™t they just adopt the DH for both leagues? It’€™s not like the National League doesn’€™t have anyone that can hit.’€

In fact, the ESPN analyst gave his opinion that interleague play lasts too long ‘€“ each team plays 18 games against a foe from the opposite league ‘€“ and loses it luster a little bit. He even offered a solution to help keep the practice fresh in the eyes of the media and the fans.

‘€œI didn’€™t realize it was that many, to be honest with you, because they play some and then they go back to American League teams are playing American League teams. Then, two or three weeks later, you go back to interleague. So I didn’€™t realize it was 18 games,’€ he said. ‘€œI don’€™t have an issue with if one team has a common foe. Washington, Baltimore, they should be a foe. Of course, the two New York teams. I guess they determined Philly and Boston should be a sibling rivalry. Oakland, San Francisco. If they play three and three, I think that’€™s plenty. I think 18 games, it’€™s like watching Yankees-Red Sox 18 times every year. After awhile, it’€™s just another game.’€ Read the rest of this entry »

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Nuggetpalooza: Romp at Fenway

06.21.11 at 11:42 am ET
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Some news and nuggets from last night’s romp at Fenway:

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* – The Padres threw 68 pitches in the 7th inning last night, tied for the third most pitches thrown in an inning since the start of the 2008 season. The only ones with more:

69 – Cardinals – vs. Phillies (6/13/08)
69 – Yankees – vs. Indians (4/18/09)

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* – For the game, the Padres staff wound up throwing 217 pitches despite not pitching the 9th inning. It was the most pitches thrown in an “eight inning” game since the Yankees needed 232 in a 15-5 loss in Tampa in 2009.

The most pitches in an eight inning game since 1995 is 252, by the Marlins in that famous 25-8 thrashing at the hands of the Red Sox in 2003.

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* – Boston batted around in the 7th inning, the league leading 15th time this year that they’ve done so:

15 – Red Sox
14 – Indians
12 – Cardinals

The Angels and Brewers have batted around only three times each this season. The Mariners have not batted around 15 times in either of the last two full seasons.

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* – Reliever Ernesto Frieri last night became the first Padres pitcher ever to allow four earned runs or more) without allowing a hit (he walked two and hit two).

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* – The Red Sox’ 14 runs were the fourth most ever scored in an interleague game by a team that did not hit a home run. It was just the fourth time in the last 50 years that the Red Sox scored 14 or more runs without benefit of a home run in any game.

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* – Adrian Gonzalez is hitting .545 (18-for-33) in interleague games so far this season. If he can keep it up, he’s on pace to set the single season interleague record:

.545 – Adrian Gonzalez, BOS, 2011
.508 – Joe Randa, KC, 1999
.493 – Hideki Matsui, NYY, 2003

Boston currently has three players in the interleague top ten for this season: Gonzalez (1st, .545), Kevin Youkilis (3rd, .480), and David Ortiz (9th, .414).  Dustin Pedroia, at .345 this interleague season, still sports a .362 lifetime interleague average, the highest in history, 14 points ahead of the now-injured Albert Pujols.

As a team, the Red Sox are hitting .360 in interleague play. The record is .330, by the 2007 Angels. They are also averaging 8.7 runs per interleague game, currently ahead of the single season record, held by the 2003 Red Sox (8.4).

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* – In their last 24 games at Fenway Park, the Red Sox have gone 16-8 while hitting .309 and averaging 6.1 runs per game. They’ve collected 11 or more hits in 15 of those 24 contests.

Of course, they’ve been outstanding on the road as well, winning 16-of-19 while averaging 6.8 runs per game in that span with a whopping 31 home runs.

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* – Kevin Youkilis has reached base 11 times in his last 16 plate appearances with runners in scoring position. Not bad for a guy who is hobbled. That includes eight RBI in his last six plate appearances with RISP and two outs. For the 2011 season as a whole, here are the AL leaders in batting average with RISP and two outs (min. 35 AB):

.415 – Adrian Gonzalez, BOS
.389 – Kevin Youkilis, BOS
.342 – Josh Willingham, OAK

Tuesday’s Red Sox-Padres matchups: Alfredo Aceves vs. Mat Latos

06.21.11 at 7:59 am ET
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The Red Sox will host the Padres for the second game of a three-game series at Fenway Park on Tuesday night. Taking to the mound for the Sox will be right-hander Alfredo Aceves (3-1, 3.30). He will be opposed by Padres right-hander Mat Latos (4-8, 4.06), who will try to keep Sox hitters in check after they put up 14 runs in Monday night’s rout.

Josh Beckett was originally scheduled to start for the Red Sox, but he was scratched late Monday night with what manager Terry Francona called “intestinal turmoil.”

Aceves will be making his fourth start of the season. He has also appeared in 15 games out of the bullpen. His last four appearances have come out of the bullpen. His last start was on May 31 in the Red Sox’ 10-7 loss to the White Sox. Aceves struggled, allowing six runs in five innings, and took the loss. His last appearance came on June 16 in the Sox’ 4-2 win over the Rays. He pitched 1 2/3 innings and allowed one run.

Latos has struggled of late as he has taken the loss in his previous two starts. He was the tough-luck loser on June 10 when the Padres dropped a 2-1 decision to the Nationals. Latos gave up two runs in six innings. In his last start Latos gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings during the Padres’ 6-3 loss to the Rockies on June 15.

Once again the Red Sox will have to learn on the fly against Padres pitchers. Just like Monday night, no Red Sox player has faced the Padres starter.

Padres hitters have not had much experience against Aceves as well. Only Jason Bartlett has ever faced Aceves. In four plate appearances, Bartlett has not recorded a hit.

PADRES VS. ACEVES

Jason Bartlett (4 plate appearances): .000 BA/.250 OBP/.000 SLG

No other Padres player has faced the Sox starter.

RED SOX VS. LATOS

No Red Sox player has any major league experience against Latos.

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Adrian Gonzalez tugs on Chase Headley’s ear and finds other ways to annoy Padres

06.21.11 at 12:52 am ET
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Facing his former team for the first time, Adrian Gonzalez got the fireworks underway in the decisive seventh with a wall-ball double that scored Dustin Pedroia from first base and put the Red Sox ahead to stay, 4-3, as Boston rolled to a 14-5 win over the Padres. Gonzalez finished 3-for-5 with three more RBIs. He’s now batting .353 with 67 RBIs, both totals lead the majors.

“It was just like another game,” Gonzalez said afterward. “I had fun with it. I have fun out there every day. It was good to see them before the game and catch up with them but once the game started, it was all about playing the game.”

Monday was also a chance for Gonzalez to catch up with former teammates Chase Headley and Orlando “O-Dog” Hudson.

“Seeing Dog was great,” Gonzalez added. “He’s a really good friend. We hang out a lot in the off-season so it was good to see and see he was doing good. He pretty much got me up to date on most of the things that are going on over there during the game so it was good. I touched Chase’s ear, which is important. He doesn’t like his ear being touched. I told him if he gets on base, I’m definitely touching his ear every time.”

The hottest offense in baseball continued on its tremendous roll Monday night as the Red Sox sent 14 batters to the plate and scored 10 times to snap a 3-3 tie and coast to a 14-5 rout of the Padres at Fenway Park. The Red Sox, in winning for the 13th time in 15 games, reached double figures in runs for the sixth time in their last 12.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, Chase Headley, MLB

Dustin Pedroia keeps giving Red Sox ‘everything he has’

06.21.11 at 12:29 am ET
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In a tie game, little things mean everything.

And no small detail meant more than Dustin Pedroia beating out a relay throw from Jason Bartlett in the seventh inning of Boston’s rout of the Padres.

Before scoring 10 times – nine with two outs – the Red Sox found themselves in a 3-3 scrap with the Padres in the bottom of the seventh. Jacoby Ellsbury walked to open the inning. Then Pedroia hit a grounder to second baseman Orlando Hudson, who fired onto second to easy force Ellsbury.

It appeared Pedroia would be the second out but the Red Sox second baseman busted it out of the box and – in the opinion of first base umpire Chris Conroy – beat the throw from Bartlett to put one runner at first with one out.

“At a time of the game where just his pure hustle gives our hitters a chance to keep hitting and extend an inning,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “We took advantage of it. That’€™s the kind of player he is. Always gives you everything he has.”

The next batter up happened to be the hottest in all of baseball. Adrian Gonzalez lofted a ball to left that careened off the Monster. Pedroia read it perfectly and scored on the wall-ball double and the Red Sox had the lead for good, 4-3. And all because he didn’t assume anything running down the line.

“Actually, that seventh inning was all created by Pedey getting to first base on that ground ball,” Gonzalez said. “If he was not able to leg out and stay away from the double play and get down the line, my double doesn’t score a run. It’s just a runner on second with two outs. It just put pressure on them and created the inning and after that, the guys continued to have quality at-bat after quality at-bat and just kept the line moving. We were able to get those runs in and it was great.”

“I don’t watch the ball,” Pedroia said. “I felt like I beat the play. I don’t know what the replay was but I thought I was safe.”

The Red Sox would send 11 more batters to the plate and score 10 times in the seventh, the sixth time in 12 games the Red Sox have scored in double figures.

“We kept having good at-bats,” Pedroia said. “It seemed like everybody had quality at-bats. We’re grinding out at-bats. We’ve been doing that the last few weeks. It’s a good sign, one through nine, we’re swinging the bats well, guys are walking, guys are finding ways of getting on. We’re getting big hits. It’s a good feeling.”

Read More: adrian gonzalez, baseball, Boston Red Sox, Dustin Pedroia

Andrew Miller offers Sox a ‘very encouraging’ first glimpse

06.21.11 at 12:12 am ET
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It would, of course, be silly to jump to conclusions based on a pitcher’€™s first major league outing of the season. As if to emphasize that point, Andrew Miller received a no-decision in the Sox’€™ 13-4 victory over the Padres that prevented any runaway proclamations about his night or his future.

Even so, his performance was not short on intrigue. The left-hander is one of the more fascinating Red Sox experiments in some time — a pitcher with incredible natural gifts, a poor track record, a history of mechanical inconsistency and a run of recent dominance in the minor leagues.

The Red Sox have had plenty of buy-low candidates making appearances on their roster in recent years ‘€“ players like John Smoltz, Rocco Baldelli, Brad Penny and Jeremy Hermida come to mind ‘€“ but none with quite the combination of stuff and singularly disappointing track record of Miller.

And so, even as the Sox continued their offensive rampage of the past month ‘€“ scoring 10 or more runs for the ninth time in 29 games ‘€“ it was Miller whose no-decision was in many ways provided the night’€™s most intriguing storyline. That was true not just of Sox officials and spectators, but also of the pitcher himself, who conceded that he felt ‘€œprobably quite a bit’€ of pressure in the build-up to the outing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Closing Time: Gonzalez delivers in reunion with Padres as Sox win, 14-5

06.20.11 at 10:52 pm ET
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Apparently, there is nothing that can faze Adrian Gonzalez, a first baseman whose kryptonite has yet to be discovered since he came to Boston. Many newcomers to the Sox require an adjustment period during which they get used to the intensity of their new home environment.

Gonzalez?

“[Expletive] no,” manager Terry Francona before Monday’s game. “He’€™s hitting .350 with RBIs all over the place. No. He’€™s a pretty confident guy. He should be. If I could hit like that, I’€™d be confident too. No, he’€™s been really good. He’€™s enjoyed the intensity of playing here. I think that’€™s what we certainly hope when we get players. Honestly, that’€™s not always the case. This is a little bit different place to play.’€

“[But] I think everybody thought [Gonzalez] was really going to enjoy it here. And again, with the lineup around him, I think everybody thought he would really flourish, which you’€™re seeing.”

That continued on Monday, in a contest when it would have been understandable if it was challenging for Gonzalez to play with his emotions under control. he was, after all, facing the Padres for the first time since they traded him to the Red Sox this winter.

The result? Gonzalez went 3-for-5 and drove in three runs, including the go-ahead tally in the bottom of the seventh, in the Red Sox’ 14-5 victory over San Diego. He is now hitting .353 for the season with 67 RBI, a pace that would yield 151 for the season, as well as 43 extra-base hits — a pace that would result in 96 multi-base knocks on the year, which would surpass the Red Sox record of 92 set by Jimmie Foxx in 1938.

On a night when he was reunited with many former teammates, Gonzalez was everything that the Padres expected him to be and that the Red Sox hoped he would be when they enacted their winter blockbuster.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Andrew Miller received a no-decision, but offered more than a few glimpses of promise. He carried a shutout through five innings before faltering in the sixth, when he gave up a three-run homer to Orlando Hudson, and finished his night having permitted three runs on seven hits in 5 2/3 innings.

His command — always the central area of conversation with Miller — left the Sox with little room for complaint. Though he walked three batters, he threw 58 of 89 pitches for strikes — a 65 percent rate that was slightly better than the major league average of 63 percent. He also showed swing-and-miss stuff, getting nine empty waves (five on sliders, two on fastballs, two on changeups) while getting seven groundball outs.

–The Red Sox continued to ransack opposing starters, knocking out Wade LeBlanc with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth inning. The contest marked the 11th time in 2011 that a starter pitcher has pitched three or fewer innings against the Sox, far and away the most times any team in the majors has sent starters to the showers that early. Indeed, entering Monday, the Yankee and Phillies were tied for second in the category, having knocked out starters in three or fewer innings on six occasions.

David Ortiz continued his tremendous campaign with a pair of run-scoring hits.

His first-inning, RBI single represented one of the more impressive plate appearances of the slugger’s career. After falling behind the left-handed LeBlanc, 0-2, Ortiz took a pair of pitches off the plate, fouled off two more pitches and then took a curveball that appeared to catch the edge of the strike zone but was ruled a ball. He then fouled off six straight full-count offerings before waiting back on a changeup and rifling it to left-center to plate the first Sox run of the night. The 14-pitch at-bat was the longest of Ortiz’ career; he’d had three 12-pitch plate appearances, most recently in 2009.

–The Red Sox manufactured a pair of runs with consecutive bases-loaded HBPs, one by Marco Scutaro, the next by Jason Varitek. It marked the first time that a team had back-to-back RBI plunkings since the 2008 Giants accomplished the feat.

Josh Reddick drove in his first runs as a pinch-hitter, jumping on an 0-1 pitch for a two-out, two-run, bases-loaded single. He had been 1-for-11 in the role.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

–The outfield tandem of Darnell McDonald and Mike Cameron continue to offer the Sox little production. McDonald went hitless with two strikeouts in three plate appearances; he is 1-for-14 (.071) since coming off the DL, and is now hitting .114 with a .384 OPS for the season. Cameron was 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout, and he’s now hitting .153 with a .503 OPS.

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Why the Adrian Gonzalez trade had to make sense to Jed Hoyer

06.20.11 at 9:35 pm ET
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Jed Hoyer returned to Boston for the first time Monday as general manager of the San Diego Padres.

His legacy in Boston began when he was hired in 2002 by the John Henry group, the year before they brought in Theo Epstein. He ascended to assistant GM of the Red Sox, working with Jason McLeod – another former Red Sox executive. Together, Hoyer and McLeod oversaw the player development department that helped bring Boston World Series titles in 2004 and ’07.

Together, their second legacy is going to be a lot more challenging.

Recognizing the difference between Boston and San Diego – i.e. the different market sizes – Hoyer went about the most difficult decision of his young career. He had to trade away Adrian Gonzalez – the leading AL MVP candidate – and get back as much as he could in return. His advantage: he knew every player he wanted.

So, on Dec. 6, he dealt A-Gon to Boston and got back first baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Reymond Fuentes and ace-of-the-future Casey Kelly. Rizzo struck out in his Fenway debut Monday night but then laced a long double to the triangle in center just moments after Orlando Hudson tied the game in the 6th. In any other park, it would’ve been his second big league homer.

“His at-bats have been pretty good,” Hoyer said. “He hasn’t had a lot of hits in the last four or five games to show for it. He’s been in a lot of deep counts. His takes and his recognition is excellent. Candidly, I think he might be over-swinging a little bit, trying to do a little too much damage because when he does get his pitch, he fouls it right back. But he’s going to be a really good player.

Rizzo reached base in his first seven games and eight of his first nine overall but has slumped of late. He entered Monday’s game at Fenway Park just 1-for-17 in his first six games of the nine-game road trip. After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Rizzo overcame cancer to establish himself as one of the best prospects in the Boston organization. This year, he earned his promotion to San Diego by batting .365, hitting 16 home runs, driving in 63 runs in 52 games for Triple-A Tucson this spring.

“I talked to [San Diego media] when they asked about him everyday for two months and sort of cautioned that he’s going to have his growing pains, he’s going go through an adjustment period, which we’re seeing now, but he’s going to be a really good player,” Hoyer added. “Hopefully, he’s just a part of the group we got for Adrian that’s going to help replenish us. We’re excited to have him.”

With his 30-43 Padres in town, Hoyer was also just soaking it all in on Monday, returning to the place he called home between 2002-09. Read the rest of this entry »

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Why Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield might be just crazy enough to work

06.20.11 at 8:08 pm ET
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At first glance, the idea seems absurd. Adrian Gonzalez, in addition to being one of the best hitters in the majors, is a Gold Glove first baseman. Putting him in the outfield, in a vacuum, would be crazy.

But in the absence of a designated hitter in National League parks during the interleague schedule, the Sox face a conundrum. They must find a way to be creative with David Ortiz and Gonzalez or else lose one of their bats from the lineup. Given that they both rank in the top four in the AL in OPS, that outcome is anything but optimal. The choice for an individual game is challenging enough, yet there are also longer-term repercussions to consider, chiefly that the Sox will take a red-hot hitter and leave him on the bench long enough that he will turn cold by the time the stretch has concluded.

The options are few. Ortiz can’t play any position but first base. Gonzalez, on the other hand…

He’s done it before. Indeed, back in 2005 with the Rangers, Gonzalez was landlocked behind first baseman Mark Teixeira for playing time. He got some games as a DH against right-handed pitchers, but in the interests of securing more time, he volunteered to work out in right field. Gonzalez played one game there at the end of the year, and he had four chances. He misplayed a single for an error, but he caught the three fly balls in his direction. Still, the terrain was definitely foreign.

“We made the first out of the game,” Gonzalez recalled earlier this year. “I turned around to tell the outfielders [how many outs there were — as he does when at first base]. It’€™s the stands. It was like, ‘€˜Hey, guys, we got one down.’€™”

He would split his time between first base and right field in the Mexican Winter League after the season, but with his trade to the Padres that offseason, the situation was resolved. He has been a fixture at first base ever since. (For more on the history of Gonzalez in the outfield with the Rangers, click here.)

Interestingly, the coach who worked with Gonzalez in the outfield with Texas is now with the Red Sox. Sox bench coach DeMarlo Hale was the first base coach who hit fly balls to Gonzalez back in 2005. He noted that the challenge of getting both Ortiz and Gonzalez into the lineup echoes the challenge that the Rangers faced with Gonzalez and Teixeira.

“Same thing,” said Hale.

Based on what he’s seen in 2011, Hale believes that the 29-year-old can still handle the experiment in limited doses.

“I’€™m sure it’€™s an option that if need be, he’€™s the type of player that is comfortable playing the game of baseball. I don’€™t think it would be a major concern with him,” said Hale. “I think you have to approach it where defensive positioning would be one of the factors to address, between me and [first-base coach Ron Johnson], really getting into the tendencies of hitters. The good thing, the National League, he’€™s been there, so he’€™ll have a sense of comfort with the hitters, and we can remind him of things that will take place ‘€“ the back baserunner. Those are the things that you can remind them, and in game situations, he’€™ll remain calm. It would come easier for him [than other players]. He plays the game calm enough that I don’€™t think he’€™ll panic. That’€™s the big thing. He won’€™t panic no matter what the situation is.”

Padres manager Bud Black was witness to Gonzalez as he won a pair of Gold Gloves at first. He saw attributes that he believes could translate into some spot duty in the outfield.

“I’€™ve seen it live. I saw it when he was with Texas and I was in Anaheim,” recalled Black, who was the pitching coach when Gonzalez made his lone big league appearance in the outfield. “He’€™s a good athlete. He’€™s got good hand-eye coordination. You’€™ve seen him catch fly balls here. He’€™s got good hands. Could I imagine it? Yeah. Would he have the range of Carl Crawford? No. [But] I can imagine it. I can imagine it.”

It’s certainly not an ideal situation. The Sox would be diminishing themselves defensively at two positions, both by having Gonzalez play the outfield and by having the defensively challenged Ortiz play first base.

Nonetheless, the offensive impact of keeping both in the lineup is such that the Sox will give a great deal of thought to the possibility. Especially given that the three parks that the Sox will visit — Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Minute Maid Park in Houston all feature limited plots of real estate in right field, something that plays into the fact that the Sox are willing to entertain the possibility.

‘€œWe’€™ve actually talked to him about that a little bit. I guess the best answer I can give you is we’€™ll see,” said Sox manager Terry Francona. “I’€™m glad he’€™s willing to do it. I think it’€™s admirable. I don’€™t want David to sit nine straight games ‘€“ that bothers me. I guess the best thing I could tell you is we’€™ll see. Maybe a couple of times just to kind of get David where he doesn’€™t go 10 days without playing because that worries me. And Gonzi I know did it. I know he’€™s done it in winter ball. And there’€™s a few right fields on this trip that aren’€™t huge. We’€™ll see. That’€™s probably the best way I can say it. It’€™s got to work though.”

If it does, the Sox would be thrilled, since one of the chief drawbacks of their forthcoming nine-game trip through National League parks will be diminished.

Read More: adrian gonzalez, bud black, David Ortiz, demarlo hale
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