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What we learned about the Red Sox Sunday: Pedro Ciriaco is on fire

03.18.12 at 5:58 pm ET
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PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. — Every year it’s somebody.( Remember, Chris Carter had back-to-back spring trainings in 2008 and ’09 of hitting .371 and .355, respectively.)

This year it’s Pedro Ciriaco.

After notching yet another hit Sunday — making him 12-for-22 (.545) for the spring — the 26-year-old infielder is opening eyes, including that of his new manager, Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine.

“He’s a good player,” Valentine said after his team’s 8-4 win over the Rays at Charlotte Sports Park. “You thought I was kidding earlier, but he’s a good player.”

So who is Ciriaco?

He is with the Red Sox on a minor-league deal after spending the last two seasons in the Pittsburgh organization, the previous five in the minors with Arizona. With the Pirates last season, he was optioned up and down to the minors five times, totaling 23 games in the major leagues. This past offseason, Ciriaco played in the Dominican Winter League. He also has played second base, shortstop, third base and two big league games in the outfield.

Ciriaco has always been known as a very good glove guy, who also has a knack for situational hitting. But it has been the Dominican native’s overall offensive prowess that has held him back (although he did go 10-for-33 with the Pirates in ’11).

‘€œI don’€™t have a spot for him right now,’€ Valentine said. ‘€œHe’€™s a good player. Guys get hot in spring training, but his hands are there, his arm’€™s there, his speed is there. That’€™s not going away. And then, you throw him a fastball, he hits it. If he plays every day and they throw him the breaking ball more, he may have issues.’€

Bobby Valentine is fairly adamant there is no need to carry three catchers (despite Ryan Lavarnway’s progress). Perhaps one of the reasons is that Valentine was once a third catcher, himself.

“I never had a game where I’ve worried about a second catcher. It’s just a lot of embarrassment and egg on my face ‘€¦ I don’t play a game worrying about what I’m going to say to you guys if in fact the catcher gets hurt and I don’t have anybody to catch,” Valentine said. “I told you Darrell Johnson had that with me. He came down the bench and said, ‘Oh, you can catch, can’t you?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ Had I ever caught before? No. Was it a big league game? Yes.”

According to Baseball-Reference, while with Seattle, Valentine caught in two games, totaling one inning of work.

As for Lavarnway, it looks like he may have to start the season in the minors despite his impressive spring.

“Eventually it’s going to happen,” said Valentine of Lavarnway finding his way onto the major league roster. “If the season started tomorrow, it would not happen.”

Valentine explained that he has never felt inclined to have three catchers on the roster, and this year doesn’t appear to be any different.

“Never is one of those words I wouldn’t use, but there’s a high possibility I won’t go with three,” the manager said

“You know, eventually, the decision goes from (what’€™s best for) the individual to (what’€™s best for) the team. And I don’€™t know if [Lavarnway's] in that part of his career yet.”

A major league source suggested the Red Sox have no plans to deal current back-up backstop Kelly Shoppach, and even if the team was exploring a deal it would have to get approval from Shoppach. Major League Baseball rules state that any player who signs as a free agent has the right to refuse a trade made prior to June 15.

Lavarnway is currently 8-for-17 (.417) this spring, not including a ‘B’ game in which he hit a home run at Hammond Stadium against the Twins.

– Other than being lumped in with the demographic in the stands instead of the folks on the field, Jarrod Saltalamacchia is feeling pretty good about his hip bursitis.

“It’€™s been feeling good,” he said after going 0-for-2 with a walk and RBI. “It’€™s honestly something that just flared up a little bit. During the season it would be playable, but in spring training I don’€™t want to take a chance of trying to play through a little bit of pain, walk different or run a little bit different and then your knee starts to hurt and it goes on.

“Monitoring-wise, there’€™s nothing you can really do. Just take inflammatories and go. It happens in old people, supposedly. Old people and catchers, apparently.”

Lars Anderson was a late scratch due to a tight calf. Mauro Gomez took his place, going 1-for-4.

Matt Moore, considered by many to be the best pitching prospect in baseball, was up and down in his second spring training outing (he had suffered from an abdominal ailment earlier in camp). The lefty showed good stuff, but didn’t get good results, giving up home runs to Cody Ross and Josh Kroeger on his way to surrendering four runs over 2 1/3 innings.

‘€œHe looks good. He’€™s got electric stuff. His fastball has a lot of life to it, some movement. He’€™s got a good breaking ball. He was struggling a little bit with his changeup, and he’€™d probably tell you that. He’€™s got a ton of upside,” Ross said. “To be as young as he is, to be competing like he is, it’€™s pretty neat to see. Is he from New Mexico? … I like him because he’€™s from New Mexico.’€

Before the game, Moore’s manager, Rays’ skipper Joe Maddon, certainly didn’t try to downplay the hype surrounding his young hurler.

‘€œThe difference with Matt is, at 22 years of age, he’€™s got this accomplished feel for pitching already. And then you combine that with his extraordinary talent level. That’€™s what sets him apart. Most of the guys who we have that are good right now went through, when they were at that age, went through all those different components. And of course he’€™s going to keep getting better also as he gets a feel for what he wants to do. I think the thing that is unique for Matt, that everybody would agree on is, is how the ball just jumps out of his hand. That is optimal. You want every pitcher you sign to have the ball come out that way. He’€™s unique in the way he does that.

‘€œI think Matt is a great product of development also. He’€™s been in our minor leagues, he’€™s been stretched out so this year we don’€™t have to baby him.  If he’€™s on our big league club, we can look at him pitching 200 innings here without having to shut him down later in the season based on a nice developmental path.

‘€œThe combination of everything, he’€™s a little bit unusual.’€

The 22-year-old struck out 15 in 9 1/3 innings during his brief stint in the majors in ’11.

Vincente Padilla, who was coming off an impressive three-inning outing against the Yankees, continues to show good stuff, and solid command. This time he went the last three innings, allowing one run on five hits, striking out three and walking one. (It was the righty’s first free pass of the spring.) He appears to have shown enough that a valued role somewhere on the pitching staff should have his name written on it. It’s just a question as to if it will be in the spot he desires — starting.

“That at-bat to Pena with the 53, 73, 93, three pitches in a row, I don’€™t think you’€™ll see that many times,” said Valentine, referring to a seventh-inning strikeout of Carlos Pena. “He’€™s an accurate thrower. His stuff seems to be pretty good. I like Padilla.”

– The Red Sox were burned twice on shifts. The first occasion came when Matt Joyce pushed a perfectly placed bunt to the vacant left side for an easy single. The second came in the fifth inning, when Matt Joyce stole third with Clay Buchholz on the mound and nobody over at third base to cover.

After the game Joyce thought he had executed a similar play before, but also wanted to praise the pickoff move of Buchholz. “He’s quick,” said the outfielder. “Close to [Tampa Bay starter James] Shields.” Shields led the majors with 13 pick-offs in ’11.

– On the injury front, Jose Iglesias (groin) appears ready to return to action.

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