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Saturday, June 30, 2012
Light in OF; long on pitchers; Aceves' itch

By John Hickey

SEATTLE -- The news that Darnell McDonald was designated for assignment Saturday to get Josh Beckett back onto the roster after a couple weeks on the disabled list leaves the Red Sox shorthanded in the outfield.

The Sox are now carrying 13 pitchers and have only a three-man bench. Beyond Daniel Nava, Ryan Kalish and Cody Ross, who are regulars these days in left, center and right, there are no other outfielders on the roster.

Enter Brent Lillibridge. Acquired last Sunday from the Chicago White Sox in the Kevin Youkilis trade, he's primarily a second baseman/shortstop type. The key word is "primarily."

Lillibridge has played enough outfield in the past couple years with the White Sox that the Red Sox were willing to go with him as the backup until the team's disabled outfielders -- Ryan Sweeney, Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury -- start trickling back onto the roster in the next few weeks.

"We know that he can play in the outfield," manager Bobby Valentine said, although Valentine's knowledge of what Lillibridge can do is based on the 28-year-old's four games in the outfield for the Sox this week, one of which was in a start.

It also helps that Lillibridge is right-handed, the manager said, pointing to his success against left-handed pitching last year with Chicago: He had a .287 average and nine of his 13 homers in 2011 were against lefties.

PITCHING IN: With the roster now crammed to capacity with pitching, the Red Sox don't figure to make any changes until they return to Fenway Park.

And even then, the changes may not come right away.

The need for pitching is going to be at an extra-high level up to the All-Star break. After finishing up Sunday in Seattle and playing a three-game set starting Monday in Oakland, the Red Sox have a four-game set with the Yankees, including a Saturday day/night Fenway Park doubleheader that is the prime reason for loading up on pitching.

That's why Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure are comfortable going with a six-man rotation for the moment. They are adding Beckett to the rotation without, for the moment at least, subtracting anyone from it.

That being said, Valentine indicated that the club might use the off day Thursday to juggle the rotation around some so that the Red Sox get their best possible matchups against the Yankees heading into the All-Star break.

"We can be more flexible that last time around," Valentine said. "I'd like to get through Oakland and see where we are and go from there."

THE CLOSER QUANDRY: The Red Sox have been winning plenty lately, 10 times in 13 games heading into Saturday's game in Seattle.

But they have been doing it without all that much work for closer Alfredo Aceves.

The right-hander wants more work than he has been getting, and he's only pitched once in the past six games.

"Alfredo hasn't come to me, but I get the word," Valentine said. "He loves to pitch. And the more he pitches, the better he is. He was going to pitch last night, but ... "

On Friday Aaron Cook pitched a two-hit shutout in which only three men reached base and Cook threw just 81 pitches. There clearly wasn't much need for the closer in that circumstance.

"He loves his job; he loves to throw," Valentine said of Aceves. "I'm very comfortable with giving him the ball."

The past five Boston wins and six of the past seven have been by margins of four runs or more. That makes it hard for Valentine to justify using Aceves.

"You never know when you are going to need him five games in a row," the manager said.