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Utility Punto, Sox glue guy

Sox substitute filled in nicely with Pedroia out.    

The silent treatment - the temporary intentional indifference shown to a hitter upon his return to the dugout following a personally-monumental home run -- is nothing new for the Red Sox, especially in Toronto.

In 2004, a rookie third baseman named Kevin Youkilis, filling in for the injured starter Bill Mueller, hit his first career homer at Skydome and was greeted in the dugout by deliberate dismissal, before finally receiving his due backslaps and high-fives.

At the re-named Rogers Centre on Saturday, it was a long-time veteran, Nick Punto, holding the place for injured second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who paid the price for performance.

When Punto capped a virtuoso performance in a 7-4 Red Sox victory with an upper-deck shot - his third hit of the day - and styled his way back to the dugout, the Red Sox bench went stone cold, leaving Punto to plead his case for adulation.

"Good old silent treatment -- that was fun,'' said Punto. "I said, 'Come give me some love.' I've been playing this game a while, but that's only my 15th home run."

Highlights have been hard to come by for Punto, playing in his 12th season, but reduced to a reserve role after years of regular contributions for the Twins in the mid-2000s. Punto, in his first season in Boston, has seen his playing time reduced in each of the past three seasons. Last year, Punto earned a World Series ring with the Cardinals, but appeared in just 63 games, his fewest since 2002.

Thus far this season, Punto has appeared in just 31 games, and despite his big day on Saturday, his time as a starter was expected to end Tuesday with Pedroia's return to the lineup.

"For me, this is definitely a change,'' Punto said. "I've been a utility player in the past but being able to play in the National League, and even for (Twins manager Ron) Gardenhire, I played quite a bit."

But while Punto goes back to his reserve role, he hopes his bat continues to make noise when manager Bobby Valentine calls his name.

"Baseball, especially hitting, it's all about timing," Punto said. "You never want to see your star second baseman go down. For me, I just need some at-bats and some timing and I'll hopefully get in a nice little groove and have our stud come back and get ready to back those guys up."

 
 
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