ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Mike Aviles is starting at third base tonight, his first appearance there since Game 162 last season.
Aviles hasn’t worked out at third base all season, including spring training. But when Bobby Valentine asked him, Aviles said he would be willing to play the position.
“I just want to play,” he said. “Hopefully I can handle whatever comes at me.”
Aviles has played 60 games at third in his career, 14 of them last season. He’s more comfortable at shortstop or second base, but playing third beats sitting for the fifth straight game as the Sox continue to give Jose Iglesias experience at shortstop.
“Mike’s played great. He’s played more than he’s ever played, he’s played consistently. His defense has been, I think, amazing,” Valentine said. “His offense has been very productive. Obviously the walks aren’t there. But he’s gotten big hits and he’s hit good pitching. He’s run the bases well [and] stolen bases when we needed him to.
“Sitting isn’t his cup of tea, for sure. He should be very proud of the way he’s played. I also am very proud of the way he’s played and happy.”
Aviles and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are the only position players to be active for all 151 games this season. Jon Lester is the only pitcher.
• RHP Scott Atchison is pitching with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. He spurned Tommy John surgery and tried a course of rest a rehab instead.
It seems to have worked. He has faced seven batters since coming off the DL and retired six of them. Atchison threw a perfect 1.2 innings on Wednesday. He was 90-91 mph with his fastball and 86-87 mph with his slider. That’s right in line with his average velocity on the season, which was 90.3 on his fastball and 82.2 on his slider.
Is the 36-year-old Atchison a medical marvel?
“I don’t know about that,” he said. “I just know I can pitch and it doesn’t hurt like it used to.”
Atchison has an 0.97 WHIP on the season. He has walked only nine batters over 48.1 innings.
“Atch looks exactly the same. Warming up, too,” Valentine said. “As he’s warming up, it’s almost the same number of pitches. They’re moving the same and it looks like the hitters are reacting to them the same. … He’s not acting through it, it’s regular. There’s no grimacing in his face.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury is getting a day off after playing six consecutive games on turf.
• Clay Buchholz, who is 28, was listening to a lot of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Hootie and the Blowfish in the clubhouse before the game. The starting pitcher gets to pick the music.
• The Rays decided against batting practice.
• Will Middlebrooks is throwing again, his broken right hand having healed. But he will not be swinging a bat before the end of the season.
“That still hurts,” he said. “It’ll be another four weeks or so.”
Middlebrooks has a therapist lined up in Texas and said he plans to start hitting a little earlier this winter to try and get his rhythm back. He doesn’t expect there to be any complications.
• The Sox will pitch Lester, Aaron Cook, and Felix Doubront against the Orioles this weekend. The Fighting Showalters are off today after playing in Seattle. The O’s will start Miguel Gonzalez on Friday and Chris Tillman on Sunday. They have not named a starter for Saturday.