Aviles makes transition into leadoff spot

Aviles makes transition into leadoff spot

BOSTON -- Manager Bobby Valentine was subtly and not so subtly laying the notion that a leadoff hitter matters before a 13-5 win over the Rays on Saturday, and that's not a stance he's alone in. Lead-off hitters, after all, are often the first batter of an just inning once a game.

Even in explaining what Mike Aviles brought to the leadoff spot in Jacoby Ellsbury's absence, Valentine tried to make the point that what Aviles brings to the top of the lineup, he brings anywhere in the lineup.

"Helping us as a leadoff hitter, 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 got that pitch on Saturday. As, coincidentally, the first batter of the bottom of the seventh, Aviles drove an 0-1 breaking ball that came in low in the zone but down the pipe from Rays right-hander Burke Badenhop, elevating it just high enough to make it into the Green Monster seats for a 6-5 Sox lead.

Before and after the game, he said his swing approach would remain constant regardless of where he bats in Boston's lineup.

"No, I actually don't change my approach, regardless of where I'm hitting. I found that in the past when I changed my approach, I find myself 0-2 a lot quicker and I try to stay aggressive in the zone," Aviles said. "That's the only difference. Sometimes I'll be overly aggressive later in the lineup. In the top part of the lineup, I try to be aggressive in the zone and just try to bear down and see a pitch I know I can drive and really take advantage of it."

Aviles, who had 45 games of experience atop a big league lineup prior to Saturday, finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored and a double to go along with the homer.

The only downside to Saturday was when Aviles got picked off at first base after an infield single in the first.

"Michael had a very good game," Valentine said. "The bases loaded at-bat with a line drive to right was as good an at-bat he had the whole night. He was determined to do well and did a good job, no doubt."

This doesn't mean Aviles is the leadoff hitter until Ellsbury returns. Not yet, anyway. Valentine indicated some shuffling would occur as the team determines just how long Ellsbury is out with a right shoulder injury and how to cope.

"Definitely it's going to hurt us not having Ells in our lineup," said David Ortiz, who went 4-for-5 with five RBIs on Saturday. "Without him, of course, [we are] going to miss him a lot. But whenever we can come out and produce like we did today, we've got to take advantage of it."