|Red Sox pregame notes: Pedroia returns, gives Sox another boost||07.19.12 at 6:30 pm ET|
Dustin Pedroia will make his return back to the Red Sox lineup on Thursday night when his team takes on the White Sox in the series finale at Fenway Park. Pedroia, who has been on the disabled list since July 4 with a hyperextended right thumb, will bat third behind Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford in the lineup.
Bobby Valentine said he was looking forward to his second baseman coming back.
“I’m anxious to see him out on the diamond,” the manager said before Thursday’s game. “I’ve seen him running around the dugout the last couple of weeks and he looks a little out of place. And I’m sure he’ll look really in place once he’s standing in between first and second.
“He’s everything, so hopefully he’ll bring it all tonight.”
Pedroia’s presence in the third spot should add to the strength of the top of the order, which has been tremendous during this series. And with the quick Pedro Ciriaco batting ninth as the designated hitter Thursday, plus Ellsbury, Crawford and Pedroia at the top, it adds a speed dynamic that hasn’t been seen all season by the Red Sox.
“If they get on, there is a dynamic quality to the grouping,” Valentine said. “It’s not the end-all to any problems, but it can all often be an additive to the solution.”
– Clay Buchholz will take the mound for the Red Sox looking to build on the success of his first start since recovering from esophagitis on July 14 against the Rays.
Buchholz, who threw 6 1/3 innings and allowed four runs on just three hits and struck out eight in a loss, will be operating without a pitch count on Thursday, something he didn’t have the luxury of having in his last start.
“I hope he pitches just liked he pitched last time with a pitch count,” Valentine said. “You can’t do anything better than he pitched last time. I’m not looking for major improvement on that, but I’d like to see a lot of the same.”
– Adrian Gonzalez has been locked in since the Red Sox returned to action after the All-Star break. The first baseman, who was hitting .283 going into the break, has increased his average 13 points to .296 by going 9-for-16 with two home runs and 10 RBIs in four games since the break.
Valentine insisted it was just a matter of time.
“He’s a quality person and a quality player and a quality hitter,” Valentine said. “You can’t keep a good man down, can’t keep a great player down.”
Valentine, however, wasn’t ready to claim his return to form as a byproduct of consistently playing at first base rather than shuffling to and from right field, which he did often before the break.
“There’s no way for me to tell,” Valentine said. “Because before he went to right field, he wasn’t hitting like he should and could anyway.”
– Kelly Shoppach will make the start at catcher for the second straight night instead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Valentine said the move was based on the fact that White Sox starter Jose Quintana is left-handed, and that Shoppach has played well against lefties this season.
For the season, Shoppach is .250 with three home runs, six doubles and a triple against lefties while Saltalamacchia bats .179 against southpaws.
“That’s what Kelly is here for, to hit against left-handers and he’s been doing a very good job of that,” Valentine said. “Salty’s started a couple of games against left-handers in the streak … might as well let Kelly get a few games in a row. When it presents itself, you usually do what you’ve been doing. It’s not about Salty, it’s about Kelly.”
Saltalamacchia is 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts since the break, while Shoppach is 2-for-5 with a home run since pinch hitting for Saltalamacchia on Tuesday night.
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