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This anemic offense could use a little iron

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / June 13, 2012
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MIAMI - The last couple of days Bobby Valentine has sat in the visiting manager’s office at Marlins Park and looked through the window to the batting cage. He watched Jacoby Ellsbury take swings. He watched Carl Crawford do extra work. And the Red Sox manager patiently waits for their return.

There are some days when making out the lineup card is a bit frustrating and certainly limited.

The stats say the Sox are third in the majors in runs and lead the majors in extra-base hits, but those numbers mean little. They’re not apropos of the situation in which this team finds itself offensively.

The Red Sox offense is MIA.

They needed a great pitching performance from Clay Buchholz and the bullpen to beat the Marlins, 2-1, Tuesday night. They got two doubles and an RBI from Kelly Shoppach, and a run-scoring single by Mike Aviles after catcher John Buck dropped a foul ball when he ran into the railing at the visitors’ dugout.

You can certainly cite the fact that the last five pitchers Boston has faced have contributed to its recent drought. They have faced Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle and have scored 12 runs in those five games.

“This is the big leagues and you’re going to face tough pitching every night, so that’s not an excuse in my mind,’’ said Sox first baseman/right fielder Adrian Gonzalez. “We were fortunate tonight because our pitching was so good, but we need to be able to score more runs for our guys. I know this team is capable of it and we’re just going through a drought right now, but those things can change quickly the other way.’’

It’s tough to go out there day in and day out with the lineups available to Valentine. Granted it was an interleague road lineup, so Buchholz had to hit. It was a night in which Shoppach was able to take the load off Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Shoppach, who is not known for his offense, was hitting sixth.

David Ortiz had the night off. Ryan Sweeney had a toe injury. Daniel Nava received an injection in his thumb recently and wasn’t available. So the Sox were really limited in what they could do with the lineup.

The Sox seem to need a spark, a call-up, or a trade.

They’re not going to get any help from Ellsbury, who is going into his second month of a methodical rehab of subluxation of his non-throwing shoulder. Nor will they get help anytime soon from Crawford, whose throwing program is in slow motion.

And the one guy they’d love to call up - the energetic Ryan Kalish - can’t come up yet despite a 12-for-28 start at Pawtucket because he has to be down 10 days after coming off the disabled list before he can be moved to the majors. So next Wednesday would be the first day he could help the big club.

Cody Ross is doing well with his foot fracture, but has yet to start rehab.

Gonzalez took an 0 for 3 Tuesday and is now hitting .260.

Kevin Youkilis went 0 for 3 and got hit below the rib cage and is now hitting .219. Right now, he’s not even trade bait and he was hitting third.

Scott Podsednik, Nava, and Darnell McDonald, who contributed a pair of hits, are temporary employees. So how can the Sox jump-start their offense?

The most likely way is to deal for an established player who can play right field. The available candidates include San Diego right fielder Carlos Quentin and Minnesota outfielder Josh Willingham.

The Cubs would deal Alfonso Soriano, who is having a good season, and would pick up most of the remaining money on his contract, much as they did when they dealt Marlon Byrd to the Red Sox. The Cubs could also deal lefthanded-hitting David DeJesus.

With phenom prospect Wil Myers close to coming up to Kansas City soon, the Royals may think about dealing Jeff Francoeur, a righthanded hitter and a very good right fielder.

Would the Sox think of packaging some of their excess to get a solid major league hitter who could hit in the middle of the order?

Or is it as simple as Dustin Pedroia, Gonzalez, and Youkilis coming together at the right time?

“It’s frustrating,’’ said Gonzalez, “but I think I’m getting some good at-bats. I like the way I’m swinging the bat. I hit a ball 340 feet to left field and in a normal ballpark that’s down the line, fair and probably out of the ballpark.’’

Gonzalez said the shoulder he had surgically repaired in 2011 is just fine.

Ortiz, probably the team’s most consistent hitter said, “We need to catch a few breaks and hit the ball where someone isn’t catching it. We’re hitting the ball right at people sometimes and that gets maddening sometimes. It’s the shifts or someone makes a great play but you’re hitting the ball hard. I think that’s happened a lot to us lately.’’

We keep saying that at some point the Sox are going to have too many outfielders and a few of them will have to either be designated for assignment or traded.

Kalish seems like a long-term solution in right or protection if the oft-injured Ellsbury stays out even longer than expected.

What the Sox have been able to do with the heavy hitters out of the lineup has been commendable, but the expiration date on some of the role players could come soon.

Sometimes you have to do more than fill in. Sometimes you have to go for a more aggressive solution. And in these days, when the lineup just can’t get over the hump, you wonder if the time is now.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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