Odd Late-Game Substitutions Underscore Odd Season for Bobby Valentine, Red Sox

by NESN Staff

August 13, 2012

Odd Late-Game Substitutions Underscore Odd Season for Bobby Valentine, Red Sox

Editor's note: NESN.com is going to tell the story of the 2012 Red Sox in Bobby Valentine?s words. Each game day, we will select the best Valentine quote that sums up the day for the Red Sox.

There are two ways to look at — or rather, two sources to blame for — the Red Sox' failings during the 2012 season. Despite the cries of many fans, the manager and management are not one of them.

The first is the collective struggle of Jon Lester and Josh Beckett. Lester took a big step towards rectifying his end of the bargain on Sunday, getting the win and 12 strikeouts through six innings while yielding only three hits and a single run to the Cleveland Indians. However, the left-hander's ERA on the season is still an unseemly 5.20 — hardly the consistent dominance Boston has come to expect.

Likewise, Beckett has also alternated between reasonable and ugly, being booed off the Fenway mound in each of his past two starts. Either way,if Lester and Beckett pitch like — well, like Lester and Beckett — then the Red Sox are probably right in the thick of the playoff race, if not leading it.

The second theory for the Sox' middling play is the ridiculous amount of injuries the team has suffered, sending the most players to the disabled list of any team since 1987. Still, it's a tough argument to make when your top of the rotation duo has missed minimal time and your offense still ranks second in Major League Baseball in runs scored.

Odd Late-Game Substitutions Underscore Odd Season for Bobby Valentine, Red SoxNonetheless, Sox manager Bobby Valentine is preparing his squad for the next time injuries hit, choosing to make some very interesting (read: eyebrow-rasing) substitutions during the latter stages of Sunday afternoon's contest at the ballpark formerly known as Jacobs. Jarrod Saltalamacchia played a little first base. Ryan Lavarnway got a chance to catch. Nick Punto played the entire right side of the infield. Pedro Ciriaco even made an appearance in center field.

And oh yeah, relief pitcher Clayton Mortensen took an at-bat.

"We wanted to get some of the guys rest with their legs and then see what guys would look like just in case we play extra-inning games or we have injuries — God forbid we have any of them," deadpanned Valentine after the game. "Guys could say that they've done it before."

It turned out after the game that at least one of the substitutions — Scott Podsednik taking over for left fielder Carl Crawford — was due to an injury, as Crawford had been experiencing some discomfort in his surgically repaired left wrist. Nonetheless, Valentine clearly took the opportunity with the big lead to play some of his pieces out of position, with injuries likely on his mind.

There had already been some talk about acclimating Ciriaco to the outfield, and Saltalamacchia has played 39 career games at first base, but it's not everyday you get to see an American League relief pitcher stand in the box against a fellow hurler — that probably wasn't the plan.

Whatever the case, it's all another indication just how Murphy's Law this season has gone for the Red Sox. It just kind of feels like another injury is right around the corner for the club, that something's always ready to go wrong.

So, maybe Valentine is taking after the Boy Scout's motto: be prepared.

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