Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine spoke Wednesday on WEEI's Dennis & Callahan show about having Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, and Will Middlebrooks all in the lineup at the same time. Valentine was asked if the new outfield alignment was sustainable over the long term.
"I don't think it's an everyday thing," Valentine said. "I think it's something that can be used throughout the year, but no I don't think it's an everyday solution ..."
"You have to see things to figure out what can go right and what can go wrong only because of the lack of familiarity with Adrian playing right field mainly, but even Kevin, he'd have to get back in the saddle at first base to do it every day. I just don't know that it's an everyday fix."
Regarding third baseman Middlebrooks's status with the big club, Valentine said he and Sox GM Ben Cherington were both on the same page.
"I totally am on board with Ben's take (that Youkilis would not lose his job to injury)," Valentine said. "Kevin's going to play third base. This is a situation that arose out of necessity, not out of choice. We're lucky to have a guy as versatile as Kevin to play on both sides of the infield and a guy as willing and versatile as Adrian who would move from first to right field to allow us to line those guys up for a while."
The Red Sox manager expressed a few concerns with having Gonzalez in the outfield, but nothing that is stopping him from using doing it again. Valentine said Youkilis would be back at first base today with Adrian Gonzalez in right field if he "had his legs under him." Valentine also said Scott Podsednik would get a start in center field in today's matinee at Camden Yards.
Before Tuesday's 4-1 loss to the Orioles, Youkilis downplayed his return from a DL stint. He started at first base.
"There's not more to the story than playing tonight and just going out there and playing ... that's it. There's not a story here, just going out and playing ... I played first base for five years here, it's not like they asked me to play center," Youkilis said.
Regarding having the speed-challenged Gonzalez play in Fenway Park's spacious right field, Valentine did not rule it out.
"Adrian is a very astute baseball player," Valentine said. "He positions himself as well as anyone I've seen in the outfield in the two games he's played there. He understands the hitters that we're playing against and he's moving more than normal, so if we pitch properly and the guy hits it where they're supposed to, I think that he'll be able to close a gap, but there's no way of covering all the ground because of a lack of foot speed."
Valentine did not embrace the idea of having Gonzalez play left field because of the added challenge of having a different view of the ball coming off the hitter's bat on the left side of the field, but wasn't ruling out having the All-Star first baseman seeing substantial playing time in right field while the outfield injury crisis continues.
"He played right field one winter ball season in Mexico," Valentine said, and then adding later, "We had a situation where Adrian, to try to allow the team to win, was volunteering to pitch, and the relationship I've had with Adrian from the first day of spring training has been one where he communicates his thoughts freely and he has thoughts every day on what could be the best thing and the best solution for our team and when this situation presented itself, it was eye contact was all that was needed and he came walking in and said 'if you're thinking about me in right field, go for it. I'll come out tomorrow and take fly balls.' You know he came out the next day and took some fly balls and you know, we're ready to go and that was just interleague play. When Cody [Ross] got hurt, he came in after the game and said the same thing."
Valentine indicated Middlebrooks would be on the Red Sox bench rather than be sent back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
"On occasion that probably will happen," Valentine said. "I don't know [if he'd go to Triple-A]. We'll see how the usage is being executed. I think we just have a situation where we have to play this by ear. This isn't something that was planned out over the winter or even was planned out last week or two weeks ago when Will first came up and Kevin first went on the disabled list. This is a work-in-progress. We'll adjust to it as the situation presents itself."
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