Aviles moves into leadoff spot -- for now

April, 14, 2012
BOSTON -- Shortstop Mike Aviles is batting leadoff for the Red Sox the day after Jacoby Ellsbury went down with a right shoulder injury.
But nobody is etching Aviles’ name in stone atop the order.

“We’ll always have a leadoff hitter. Every single day.” manager Bobby Valentine joked when asked how he will handle filling Ellsbury’s spot in the lineup. “I guarantee it.”

Aviles, who was given some looks in the leadoff spot during spring training, has hit either eighth or ninth through his first six games in 2012. However, he is a .318 (64-for-201) career hitter in 45 games atop the order, all with Kansas City.

Fully aware that the batting order could be in a state of flux for the foreseeable future, Aviles has no intention of altering his plan of attack.

“I know the pitches I can hit,” Aviles said. “I’ll go up there and try to be aggressive in the zone and I feel like for me, personally, I feel better about myself when I’m aggressive in the zone. Once I get out of the zone, I’m not helping myself. I’m not helping the team.

“It’s no different than batting ninth. The only thing is I don’t run off the field and get my stuff on and go hit right away, but honestly it’s really no different.”

In addition to offering vague information as to how he will deal with the leadoff spot, Valentine hinted that it might not even matter much. He suggested that people place too much emphasis on needing a prototypical leadoff hitter in order to have success, citing past examples of teams doing just fine without one. Valentine referenced Rickey Henderson as perhaps the only true leadoff hitter he has ever managed.

This spring Valentine expressed confidence in Aviles as a top-of-the-order bat, and reaffirmed that stance Saturday.

“Mike is a dangerous hitter,” Valentine said. “If a pitcher gets careless, he can do damage. He’s developing into an offensive player, really concentrating on his defense right now. I’ve seen him where, if he gets that pitch, possibly as a leadoff hitter, with those guys coming up next, I don’t know, we’ll see if he gets that pitch -- and then he’ll be a good leadoff hitter if he does.”

Aviles entered Saturday hitting .227 (5-for-22) with a double and three RBIs. Aside from Ellsbury, infielder Nick Punto is the one other Red Sox player to hit leadoff this season. He went 3-for-6 with three RBIs in that role against Detroit on Sunday.

Here's the rest of the Sox lineup:
Mike Aviles, SS
Dustin Pedroia, 2B
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B
Kevin Youkilis, 3B
David Ortiz, DH
Cody Ross, CF
Ryan Sweeney, RF
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C
Darnell McDonald, LF



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