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Valentine pondering Aviles at leadoff

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  March 27, 2012 05:05 PM

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FORT MYERS, Fla. Bobby Valentine hit Mike Aviles leadoff today, the second time he has done in that three days.

Is he thinking about that once the season starts?

"Maybe, yeah," the manager said. "Trying to warm up to it, see if I can see it. He quickly strikes fear into a pitcher's heart, I'll tell you that."

Aviles started the bottom of the first inning today with a rocket to third base that was caught.

"It gets a guy doubting his stuff in a hurry," Valentine said. "We'll see."

Then again, Aviles has a .318 career on base percentage.

"We'll see how it works. It's not like he swings at the first pitch all the time," Valentine said. "I don't know that [Jacoby] Ellsbury is really a count-grinding guy other than that he fakes that bunt a lot to get one pitch into the count."

Ellsbury saw an average of 3.84 pitches per plate appearance last season, Aviles saw 3.40. Ellsbury had a .376 OPB in 2011. But that was more because he had a ton of hits, not because he was drawing a bunch of walks. His 52 walks were fifth on the team and only three more than he had in 2009.

Valentine mentioned several weeks ago that the idea of sending Ellsbury up to the plate without any runners on base at least once a game may not make sense given his ability to drive in runs.

Given that Dustin Pedroia, Carl Crawford and Kevin Youkilis want nothing to do with leading off, Aviles may be the best bet if Valentine is determined to move Ellsbury down.

Valentine also talked about . . .

Josh Beckett: "Josh was working on his chageup a little. I thought he threw a lot of really good pitches today. I think he got his work in, put up a bunch of zeroes, was competitive working against their hitters. I think that was what he needed. ... He had pretty good stuff today."

As was mentioned earlier, Beckett has allowed 2 earned runs in 19 innings against major league teams this spring.

Mark Melancon (1.1 0 0 0 0 2 today): "Real close. He'll have a couple more outings. But the ball seems to be moving off the head of the bat the way we hoped it would. He's working in, out and up and down like he does."

Melancon's last three outings: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0BB, 3 K. His velocity has been up and his location has been there.

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