FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Bobby Valentine said prior to the Red Sox' Grapefruit League opener, against the Twins at JetBlue Park, that he wouldn't hesitate hitting Dustin Pedroia first in the lineup, with Jacoby Ellsbury batting second, which is where the players were slotted for Sunday's game.
Valentine was initially surprised at the question regarding why the two players were flip-flopped from the lineup spots they had managed the past few years, but then explained, "It's just that its' a new year."
"Depending on who else is around there, yeah," said Valentine when asked about if he would hit Pedroia in the leadoff spot during the regular season. "Just about those two, that two situation is an interesting thing, just the right-left, as opposed to Pedroia and Ellsbury or Ellsbury and Pedroia. I would think if you polled 100 guys who talk about that and they wanted a guy to lead off an inning and have the second hitter batting, most of them would want a left-hander batting if the first guy got on. If he hits a doulbe, it's a lot easier to advance him to third. If he hits a single, it's a lot easier to advance him to third. If he hits a single, it's a lot easier to advance him to third if he hits with a hole over there. With a strength swing, rather than his less-than-strength swing."
Pedroia has hit in the leadoff spot 79 times, totaling a .253 batting average and .693 OPS in the spot. Ellsbury has hit second only eight times (hitting .304), having manned the lineup's top spot in 405 of his career 507 major league games.
Valentine he has yet to "get a good feel" for the Red Sox lineup yet, but did go on to explain that he will prioritize match-ups rather than simply placating players who say they feel comfortable in a certain spot.
“I’ll consider feelings, of course, and then consider everything else and figure out how to maximize the lineup," he said. "It’s all about competition. The end result is about maximizing production so that deals with not only personalties of people but the competition, how we match up. The great terminology today is match-up. Regretfully, because statistics are what they are, we talk about individual match-ups. There are also team match-ups. There are the way groupings matchup against the competition."
When asked if his philosophy regarding putting together lineups have changed over the years, Valentine admitted he has changed his philosophy as new information has become available.
“I think it’s evolved, yeah," he said. "Just a combination of things. One, I started getting more information where I would realize some lineups probably worked better against some pitchers, some lineups probably worked better against different bullpens, some lineups cannot be together all year. The last thing you ever want a pitcher to think when he goes out on the mound is that he’s pitching with something less than the best lineup behind him. That’s all part of team-building. Knowing that the lineup is going to change 100 times in a season, if the only time a team thinks it’s going to win is when their lineup is out on the field, then there’s going to be a lot of games they take the field and think they don’t have to win. It creates a bad mentality, to think you have one lineup and that lineup is the one that wins. It’s a Little League mentality that should not exist at the highest level of baseball. To say nothing of the fact that guys often need to play to be contributors and to feel part of a team.
"If you start a season, and I've had preseason talks with every person in that room, including the guys who say, ‘I want to play 162 games’ and including the guy who says, ‘I’d just like to know what my role is.’ A guy says, ‘Hey, I want to know what my role is,’ he’s saying, ‘I want to have a role.’ Part of that role is starting sometimes. I just don’t think it’s part and parcel to the major league. It’s a wonderful talk show conversation about the lineup, and then you go through the St. Louis Cardinals, the world championship run to the World Series, and you see in the playoffs and World Series, they might have used the same lineup twice. What are we talking about?"
For more on the Red Sox lineup, and other news from Fort Myers, see the team page at weei.com/redsox .