BOSTON –– The Red Sox took a notable risk by testing Adrian Gonzalez in the outfield. Now, the team plans to experiment with the first baseman by moving him over to the tricky right field at Fenway Park.
Before Friday's game against the Rays, Red Sox skipper Bobby Valentine insinuated that he would start Gonzalez there for Saturday's game. And it would be the slugger's first career start in Fenway's outfield.
Ultimately, it's worth a try. With Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Cody Ross, Jason Repko, Ryan Sweeney, Ryan Kalish and Darnell McDonald all sidelined, Valentine doesn't have many alternatives left over.
Having Kevin Youkilis' bat in the lineup –– since Youkilis would likely play first for Gonzalez –– is a significant upgrade over Che-Hsuan Lin or Marlon Byrd.
Prior to making that decision, Valentine understood he was taking a gamble. But now, he's raising the stakes and or fielding errors by slotting Gonzalez in Boston's complex stadium.
Fenway Park's outfield is unlike many in baseball. Compared to Camden Yards and Citizens Bank Park –– the two stadiums that Gonzalez has dabbled out –– Fenway's right field has some of the toughest dimensions.
The short right field wall and the small disparity between the foul line and fair play provide headaches. Part of the reason the Red Sox constructed a replica spring training stadium was so outfielders could gain experience in those tough dimensions.
Gonzalez never had that luxury. Throughout the spring, he practiced exclusively as a first baseman. He never could have anticipated that seven outfielders would eventually land on the disabled list.
Still, despite his limited experience, Valentine believes the Gold Glove first baseman is up to the task.
"I think he positions himself extremely well and he gets a good jump on the ball," Valentine said. "Does that make up for some of the foot speed? I’m not sure. All I know is thus far, when the ball is hit, we do a pretty good job of retrieving it and the opportunities he’s had has led me to believe that he can catch it if he can get to it."
In Philadelphia, Gonzalez expressed confidence in his abilities. He's made some impressive grabs to back that swagger. After all, he's still an athlete, and one who has dabbled occasionally in the outfield in winter ball.
But even the most seasoned of outfielders have endured their own hiccups in Fenway Park's outfield.
Former Red Sox outfielder and current Athletics standout Josh Reddick received that reminder earlier this month, when he tumbled over the short wall –– and into the Boston bullpen –– trying to snag a blast off the bat of David Ortiz.
Imagine if that happened to Gonzalez.
At this point, however, Valentine doesn't have much else to lean on. For now, it's the right –– and risky –– call for the Red Sox manager.
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