NEW YORK — To maintain some standard of professionalism, Major League Baseball requires teams start at least four “regular players’’ for games played during spring training.
Managers who flout that standard usually receive a note reminding them of the need to make the product presentable for fans.
No such rule exists during the regular season, so Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was free to use the nine players he sent up against the Yankees on Monday night.
Six started the season in Triple A Pawtucket. Another, Danny Valencia, was a castoff picked up from the Minnesota Twins. The only bona fide big leaguers in the lineup were Cody Ross and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.
The result was as predictable as the game was difficult to watch. The Yankees scored nine runs in the second inning and embarrassed the Sox, 10-2.
With Baltimore losing at Tampa Bay, the Yankees have a one-game lead in the American League East with two games to play. Given how the Red Sox are laying down, the division title should not be difficult to claim.
“You just play the cards that you have,’’ Valentine said. “That’s what we have right now.’’
Dustin Pedroia was not available because of a fractured left ring finger. But Valentine elected to keep veterans Jacoby Ellsbury, James Loney, Mike Aviles, and Scott Podsednik on the bench against CC Sabathia.
Loney and Podsednik are lefthanded hitters with little career success against Sabathia. The same is true of Ellsbury, but he never has been regarded as a platoon player. The righthanded-hitting Aviles was 6 of 16 against Sabathia.
Sabathia allowed two runs on four hits and struck out seven to improve to 15-6.
Valentine defended his lineup afterward.
“My guys give their all every time they go out there,’’ he said. “When they wear that uniform they know they have a responsibility to play hard and I like their effort.’’
The Red Sox had their best starter on the mound in Clay Buchholz. But he could not get out of the second inning against a lineup that featured five players each making more than all 10 players the Red Sox started.
The Yankees sent 13 batters to the plate in the second inning and scored nine runs on eight hits, six of them for extra bases. Buchholz and reliever Alfredo Aceves threw 57 pitches.
It started with a long home run to center field by Robinson Cano, the ball glancing off the window of the sports bar above Monument Park.
With one out, Nick Swisher singled to center ahead of a homer to right by Curtis Granderson. It was Granderson’s 41st of the season, matching the career high he set in 2011.
Russell Martin followed with a line drive to right field that got over the wall with a little help from a fan in a Red Sox jersey. The umpires reviewed the play and called it a home run. Yankee Stadium security used the time to escort that fan from his seat.
Buchholz loaded the bases on two walks and a single by Ichiro Suzuki. A sacrifice fly to left by Alex Rodriguez scored Eric Chavez.
When Cano lined a two-run double to the gap in right, Valentine pulled Buchholz.
Aceves left a changeup over the plate that Mark Teixeira blasted into the seats in right field. It was the third time in franchise history the Yankees have hit four home runs in the same inning.
For Buchholz (11-8), it was the third-shortest start of his career and the first time he has allowed eight earned runs.
Buchholz, who allowed eight home runs over 7⅔ innings in two starts against the Yankees this season, ends the year with a 4.56 earned run average.
“The ball was coming out fine. It’s tough whenever you leave pitches out over the middle of the plate and every one of them gets hit,’’ Buchholz said.
Buchholz has started 29 games and thrown 189⅓ innings, the most of his career.
“It’s a step in the right direction but not enough of one, I guess,’’ he said.
Daniel Nava homered for the Sox and Che-Hsuan Lin had two of the four hits.
At 69-91, the Red Sox are 24 games out of first place. That is their largest deficit since the final days of the 1969 season.
But the ’69 Sox were a solid team, winning 87 games during a season when the Baltimore Orioles ran away from the division with 109 wins.
These Sox aren’t remotely that competitive. They have lost six straight, 10 of 11, and are a ghastly 16-40 since Aug. 1. They are assured of finishing no higher than last place.
Valentine was asked before the game whether he was concerned about his status as manager.
“I’ll be at the hotel tonight and here tomorrow I think,’’ he said with a smile.
But that clock is ticking as this season winds down.