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Gonzalez hits his stride

Mechanical adjustment leads to 4-for-5 outing

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 21, 2011

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BALTIMORE - When quizzed by reporters Tuesday night about the 2-for-24 slump he had fallen into since the All-Star break, Adrian Gonzalez predicted they would be back in a week asking him about getting three hits in a game.

He was wrong. It was four hits, and it was the next day.

To his credit, Gonzalez managed not to smirk too much after going 4 for 5 in yesterday’s 4-0 victory over the Orioles.

“There was no reason to panic,’’ he said.

A mechanical adjustment helped lead to better swings. Gonzalez stood with his legs farther apart, which helped shorten his stride and make his hands quicker.

Manager Terry Francona did his part by using Gonzalez as the designated hitter on a 95-degree day. Gonzalez normally prefers to play the field but didn’t mind the temporary assignment.

“If you had to pick a day to DH, today was the day,’’ he said.

Francona wasn’t too concerned about Gonzalez. He blamed the slump on the travel and demands on the players’ time when they are selected as All-Stars.

“I was shocked. I was stunned at the amount of [activities],’’ said Francona, a two-time All-Star manager. “In the clubhouse, it’s like nonstop. Then you finally think you’re going to get to go on the field and you can’t get on the field. It’s probably too much. I think it takes away, certainly, of the enjoyment for the players of the game itself.

“I’m not sure how to get around that. Maybe it might be too many activities.’’

Trade talk A report by Fox Sports listed the Red Sox as one of the “most aggressive suitors’’ for Mets right fielder Carlos Beltran. But several major league sources refuted that, saying that while the Sox have inquired about Beltran, they are not among those in hot pursuit.

The Red Sox, for now, are evaluating to what degree they can rely on Josh Reddick in right field, with Darnell McDonald available to play against lefthanders.

Reddick was 2 for 4 with a walk yesterday and started in right field ahead of slumping J.D. Drew.

Since being called up in June, Reddick is 26 for 69 (.377) with 12 extra-base hits, 14 RBIs, and nine walks. That he started in place of Drew yesterday could indicate the Sox are prepared to give him every opportunity to take over the position.

Step forward Jon Lester threw 45 pitches in the bullpen before the game, what amounted to three simulated innings. The lefthander, who is on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle, came through feeling good.

“Everything is fine,’’ he said.

Francona was a little more excited than his taciturn pitcher.

“Tremendous. Fine. Really well,’’ he said of Lester’s workout.

Lester remains lined up to face the Royals on Monday. He will throw in the bullpen again tomorrow.

“We’re trying to ramp him up and let him get strong. He feels nothing in that lat, which is great,’’ Francona said. “That’s what we wanted. Now it’s the idea of getting him back to where he can go out there and start a game and not be so limited that he can only go out and throw 50 pitches.’’

The Sox would like to see Lester throw 80-90 pitches on Monday.

Clay Buchholz had another session of long toss and emerged without pain in his lower back. His next step would be to pitch off a mound. That could come as early as tomorrow.

Streaking on It wasn’t much of a hit, a slow roller to the third baseman in the fifth inning, but it extended Dustin Pedroia’s hit streak to a career-best 18 games. He is 29 of 79 (.367) in the streak. Pedroia also has reached base safely in 30 consecutive games . . . The teams were 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position . . . Reddick is 13 of 30 (.433) in 11 career games at Camden Yards. “I made my debut here and always liked it here,’’ he said . . . Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, and Gonzalez filled in for David Ortiz as the DH served his three-game suspension. Ortiz will return to the lineup tomorrow. “I’m a free man,’’ he said . . . Crawford was called for interfering with the catcher in the sixth inning, which resulted in a double play. As he struck out, Crawford stepped across the plate while Craig Tatum was throwing to second. Plate umpire Mike Winters made the call . . . The Sox are 8-3 against the Orioles this season, outscoring them, 72-47 . . . Sox reliever Matt Albers, who got four outs, is nearly perfect against his former team this season. He has allowed only a walk in 4 1/3 innings and struck out seven over three appearances . . . Lefthander Tommy Hottovy, who was designated for assignment last week, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple A Pawtucket.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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