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Monday morning with Bobby Valentine: Could Aaron Cook be in the bullpen mix?

03.12.12 at 11:48 am ET
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FORT MYERS, Fla. — With Aaron Cook have made his first game appearance of the spring on Sunday — a two-inning effort — Valentine said that he appears to be on pace for 17 or 18 innings in the spring, a number that would make it unlikely that he would open the year in the big league rotation.

“Will he get enough innings in order to start pitching in the major leagues right at the beginning of the season? I doubt it,” said Valentine. “It seems like he’€™s on pace for 17 or 18 innings if all goes well from here on in and if we have the innings to give him. I doubt it.”

But then, Valentine raised an interesting possibility.

“Maybe,” he said of the possibility of Cook being ready for Opening Day. “In a role. Maybe.’€

The idea of Cook as a reliever hadn’t been mentioned previously. He has appeared in 238 big league games, and 206 of those have been in the rotation. Since 2004, he has made just one big league relief appearance, and that came last September when the Rockies were trying to give him some work in September, at a time when he hadn’t pitched in a game in roughly two weeks. His contract is structured with incentives for starts made, rather than appearances, suggesting that is the role in which he was primarily considered when he signed.

That said, if he’s not stretched out to start, then Valentine said that his sinker could be an asset in a different role as well.

‘€œWe’€™d like him to be a starter. He seems like a pitcher to me,” said Valentine. “If he has that sinker he had yesterday, consistently, he can be a contributing factor, especially at our place.’€

OTHER NOTES

— A number of Red Sox players will move around to different positions as the spring progresses, but only once they are comfortable at their home stations. So, eventually, Kevin Youkilis (who has spent some time at first base on the practice fields) is likely to cross the diamond from third base and spend some time at first; Mike Aviles, who has played solely at shortstop this spring, will eventually play some third and outfield (where, Valentine said, he was “playing during the winter and making some great progress”); Lars Anderson will likely play some left field; and Adrian Gonzalez could see some time in the outfield as well.

While Nick Punto has played solely at second base in games, Valentine said that his defensive comfort at different infield positions is sufficiently high that he doesn’t necessarily need to move around to other infield positions.

Andrew Miller still has a chance to open the season in the rotation, Valentine said. Even though, like Cook, he has thrown just two innings in games this spring, the manager said that Miller was dealing with a minor injury and not one that would restrict the club from bumping up his workload.

Jose Iglesias will take part in limited baseball activities in the coming days, and he will likely rest his injured right groin until Thursday.

Carl Crawford is building up his baseball activities gradually.

“He’s going to throw 90 feet today with the trainer,” said Valentine. “He’s ready to progress here mid-week with some monitored swings.”

— Valentine has bunting stations set up today for his players to work on that particular aspect of their craft. He said that he is not a believer in the sacrifice bunt, instead preferring that his players look to bunt for base hits in situations in which they are trying to avoid the double play.

— Asked whether he liked the idea of players like David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez bunting for a base hit against the shift, Valentine suggested that it was, from a situational standpoint, a fine enough idea.

“You mean like in the ninth inning three runs down and they’€™re leading off the inning? I think it’€™s a great play,’€ he said. ‘€œIf there’€™s that really tough pitcher and they’€™ve got a sore hand, there’€™s all circumstances where a bunt for a base hit, by a big guy or a little guy, can activate the offense. It’€™s a lot better than a pop-up to foul territory, I’€™ll tell you that.’€

That said, Valentine said it will be completely up to the discretion of his hitters when to use such a tactic.

‘€œDo you think I’€™ll ever give them the bunt sign?” said Valentine. “No. Never. I don’€™t think I’€™ll give many people a bunt sign. But I want them to have it in their toolbox.’€

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