The best offensive showing of the season for the Red Sox came Wednesday night with Daniel Nava batting leadoff, Ryan Kalish hitting second, Kevin Youkilis seventh and Nick Punto playing second base. In other words, exactly how we all envisioned it back in March.
That’s sarcasm, folks, and a reflection of how wacky the daily permutations in the team’s batting order have become. Until the injuries cease and other scenarios play themselves out, expect the wackiness to continue.
Carl Crawford is in Florida beginning rehab games and Jacoby Ellsbury is not far off. Dustin Pedroia insists his thumb is not an issue and the situation involving Kevin Youkilis, Will Middlebrooks and Adrian Gonzalez has to be settled soon. At that point, we might have some semblance of a concrete lineup. Emphasis on the word “might.”
It is nearly impossible to predict what the lineup will look like two months from now. Still, there are a few possibilities to ponder as we look ahead.
If the All-Star first baseman continues to struggle, Valentine may be inclined to drop him down a few spots in the order. He has already shown that inclination by batting Gonzalez sixth on three different occasions this month, and the presence of Ellsbury and maybe even Crawford near the top of the order (a nutty idea, but one that might enable Crawford to jump back in with loads of protection) can cause a trickle-down effect until Gonzalez gets it going.
Bat Ellsbury third
On days when Daniel Nava or Ryan Kalish are in the lineup, perhaps in right field, Valentine could prop one of them atop the order and bat Ellsbury third, a popular talking point this spring, long before Nava began to get on base with regularity.
Nava entered Thursday with a team-leading .449 on-base percentage. Even in his monstrous 2011 season, Ellsbury’s was more than 70 points less.
An issue does arise if you bat Ellsbury, Ortiz and Gonzalez, all lefties, in the 3-4-5 spots. Problem solved if you move Gonzalez to sixth, as proposed earlier, and hit someone like Middlebrooks fifth. The youngster could benefit from an Ortiz-Gonzalez sandwich. Presumably, so would Youkilis if he is still around.
Platoon in right field
The Nava-Crawford debates have already begun to rage, the former doing great things for pennies while the latter rehabs at a cost of millions. However, it is extremely difficult to imagine Crawford returning to a bench role -- his contract and pre-2011 status make such an argument just a waste of time.
So what to do with Nava? Well, he and Ross would create a rather intriguing platoon in right field, if the club chooses to keep every one of these outfielders around (remember, the Sox could suddenly have a surplus of healthy, capable outfielders and more than one could be trade bait for a pitcher).
Nava, a switch hitter, owns a 1.089 OPS against right-handers this season, compared to a .691 mark vs. lefties. Ross has a 1.058 mark vs. southpaws and an .826 showing against righties. The numbers are not complete aberrations, and if Valentine wanted to make two guys worthy of everyday jobs into part-timers he would have a lethal combination in right.
If such a scenario occurs, Darnell McDonald may be on the outs. Perhaps Ryan Kalish could be the fourth outfielder and backup at all three spots. Ryan Sweeney? Scott Podsednik? Who knows? So much of it is up in the air.
Just like the Red Sox lineup on a daily basis.
Ortiz spouts off
Here are the best quotes from David Ortiz' rant to the media prior to Thursday's game against Miami:
"Too much (expletive), man. People need to leave us alone and let us play baseball."
"I'm just tired of dealing with the drama here. This is baseball, man. It seems like everything that goes on around her is like one of those congress decisions that will affect the whole nation. It ain't like that man, this is baseball."
"(Boston) is starting to become the (expletive)-hole it used to be. Playing here used to be so much fun."