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Valentine explains his lineup changes

Posted by Peter Abraham, Globe Staff  April 8, 2012 11:16 AM

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DETROIT It's safe to say we know Bobby Valentine is not taking lineup suggestions from baseball operations.

Nick Punto is a career .169/.244/.244 hitter in 176 plate appearances hitting leadoff. He's hitting leadoff.

Darnell McDonald is a career .213/.273/.339 hitter in 317 career plate appearances against a righthander. He's hitting sixth.

Kelly Shoppach is a career .202/.287/.361 hitter in 997 career plate appearanes against a righthander. He's hitting ninth. Shoppach was 13 of 113 against righties last season. That's .115

"Today we're getting some guys their first starts of the year. I think we'll be able to score some runs with it. Hope so," Valentine said.

Valentine said the team's collective slump (the Sox are 12 of 64 with two runs in two games) was not the reason he benched Kevin Youkilis (0 for 8, 4 strikeouts), Cody Ross (0 for 8, 3 strikeouts), and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (1 for 6, 3 strikeouts). It was more to get the subs some action.

"It was kind of a planned routine," Valentine said.

As for Punto leading off, Valentine said he ignored the numbers.

"I think he's probably going to hit .260 in the leadoff spot so he's got a lot of hits coming up. I don't think that has anything to do with it," he said. "Personally, I don't think that has anything to do with it."

So why Punto as a leadoff hitter then?

"Just want to see what it looks like," Valentine said. "See if it gives us a little spark. He's a sparking kind of player who battles every at-bat."

Valentine said that in his opinion, where a player hits in the order "hardly ever" has anything to do with his batting average.

"I was trying to get everyone a start and I didn't want to do it after the first game. Now everyone will have a start," Valentine said.

McDonald had a terrific spring at the plate. But starting him against a righthander?

"Most of his at-bats in the spring were against righthanders. So I figure if he's ever going to start against a righthander it's now," Valentine said.

Valentine did not inform the players of the lineup changes Saturday night. That's a departure from the previous regime.

"I didn't know until this morning," Valentine said.

Valentine said he would tell players the night before about lineup changes, "if I find out they need it. ... Whatever guys need. I haven't checked all that temperature here. I didn't get anything from the coaches' room last night."

As to other matters:

Josh Beckett reported no physical issues Saturday night after his start. "Mentally bruised but physically fine," Valentine said.

Beckett was at Comerica Park at 8:30 a.m. to get his workouts in.

Andrew Miller will pitch for Single A Greenville Monday night. Rich Hill will pitch Tuesday.

Valentine said Miller was scheduled for a back-to-back, which would seem to indicate he'll also pitch on Tuesday.

Jacoby Ellsbury steady yourself, ladies has a little bruise above his left eye. He got dinged up diving for a ball Saturday.

"I got into a fight," Ellsbury said when I asked him what happened. He had me fooled for a second, too.

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