|Making due: Red Sox living through imperfect world of bouncing Gonzalez, Youkilis between positions||06.15.12 at 2:59 pm ET|
CHICAGO — It’s an imperfect world.
The Red Sox are trying to juggle their lineup and roster on an almost daily basis, a byproduct of the fact that the team is dealing with injuries to numerous players (Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Cody Ross) and the emergence of others (Will Middlebrooks, Daniel Nava). The result has been a lineup featuring elements that would not have been expected at the start of the year, chiefly, the frequent shuffling of Kevin Youkilis between first and third bases and Adrian Gonzalez between first and right.
It has been a less-than ideal scenario for the Sox, but it has been helpful in getting the team as much offense as possible on any given day.
“It’s a couple of individuals who are going a little beyond the call of duty to give us the best chance of winning. I think it’s real important to have individuals who are willing to do the right thing and help the team win,” said manager Bobby Valentine.
That willingness does not mean it’s necessarily easy. Youkilis, however, does have a long track record at first, having played more big league games there (593) than at third (359), and his Gold Glove came from his time at first base. Gonzalez, however, entered this year having played just three big league games in right. His primary education at the position came when he played it in the Mexican Winter League after the 2005 season. With his start in right on Friday, he’s now played 16 contests there for the Sox this year, and while he’s handled himself more impressively than the Sox could have imagined, that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t required an adjustment.
“Adrian is extremely challenged,” said manager Bobby Valentine. “He hasn’t played the outfield for many years, as regularly as he’s playing here. I think there’s a physical challenge just on running a little further every game just to get to your position because Youk was a Gold Glove first baseman, it’s probably not the same challenge, but it’s still very challenging to get a different mindset where everything is backward. You’re on the other side of the field. Different responsibilities once the ball is hit. He’s done a good job making the adjustment.”
Still, an adjustment it is, something that becomes magnified when trying to explain the fact that both Gonzalez and Youkilis are mired in near-season-long slumps. Youkilis is hitting .219/.303/.352/.655 with four homers in 37 games. Gonzalez entered Friday hitting .267 with a .318 OBP, .414 slugging mark and .732 OPS.
And so, Valentine was asked, could there be a connection between the positional instability and the poor results? The manager didn’t rule out the idea, but the reality is that both players’ struggles predate their shifting roles.
“It’s a consideration,” said Valentine. “I mean, if either one of them was playing just one position and they were hitting .450,and then they started two positions and started hitting .100, that’s probably something to take notice of. I haven’t seen any difference with the offense whether they were playing one position or two.”
Even so, with Cody Ross starting a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday, it is possible that Gonzalez’s days in right could be numbered. Valentine was non-committal about what the future might hold for Gonzalez in the outfield.
“We’ll see,” he said.
For now, the Red Sox are trying to make due, and to field a lineup that is as competitive as possible, even though the effort to maximize offense has lent itself to defensive arrangements that are somewhat less than ideal.
– Daniel Nava took batting practice before Friday’s game, and Valentine said that it was possible that he could be available off the bench on Friday. The fact that he has not been placed on the disabled list suggests that the Red Sox are comfortable with the fact that his hand injury is progressing to the point where he will be able to contribute sooner rather than later.
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