PAWTUCKET – On his first official day as a member of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Danny Valencia found himself out of Wednesday’s starting lineup. His placement under the “extra hitters” portion of the lineup card only furthers the argument that it’s going to be tough for the 27-year-old to carve out regular playing time.
Valencia is a third baseman by trade, a position where he’s logged 2,281 innings in 262 big-league games. Coming over from the Minnesota Twins via trade on Sunday, Valencia joins a PawSox ballclub that's pretty well stocked at the hot corner.
Consider this: PawSox manager Arnie Beyeler spent a portion of Wednesday’s batting practice lacing countless ground balls to Mauro Gomez at third. What made the session even more noteworthy is the encouragement Gomez was receiving from his skipper as Beyeler was on a mission to make Pawtucket’s top power threat work up a sweat.
Gomez made his seventh appearance at third base Wednesday, all of the nods transpiring since he rejoined Pawtucket on July 20. With MLB rosters set to expand in a few short weeks, it would appear the Red Sox are on a mission – to provide Gomez with as many reps as possible.
The decision to expand Gomez’ horizons is one that influences the playing time for several PawSox. Andy LaRoche made his sixth appearance at second base Wednesday, a player who in his short time with the PawSox has mostly seen action at third (22 games). The current roster also boasts two additional and capable options in Nate Spears (team-leading 55 games at third base) and Jon Hee (14 games).
With Valencia, a 19th-round selection of the Twins in 2006, now onboard, it figures to quite interested regarding how Beyeler keeps everyone fresh. Speaking about his newest player, Beyeler recalls seeing Valencia as a Double-A prospect in New Britain in 2008-09. At the time Beyeler was piloting the Portland Sea Dogs.
“He was a guy like (Will) Middlebrooks in that he had a lot of ability. (The Twins) moved him through the system and is definitely a guy who knows what it’s about,” Beyeler said. “He has a lot to offer and we’ll see what happens.”
Valencia was immediately added to Boston’s 40-man roster after hitting .198 in 34 games with the Twins. He was present at Fenway Park when the trade was consecrated as Valencia met face-to-face with Boston general manager Ben Cherington shortly after the move became official.
“It’s a tough break. Obviously they have a roster that’s full,” said Valencia about what his reaction was upon learned he would be optioned to Pawtucket. “They told me to come down and work hard.”
Valencia led the Twins with 72 RBI in 2011, hitting .246 with 15 homers in 154 games. He broke into the majors in 2010 after starting the season in Triple-A Rochester, his debut season consisting of a .311 average with seven round trippers and 40 RBI in 85 games.
“I’ve always played third base,’” said Valencia. “Arnie hasn’t spoken to me about playing different positions,” Valencia affirmed. “As far as I know, I’m going to play third base and be a guy who drives the ball and drives in runs.”
There’s also another thing Valencia – a teammate of Jason Repko’s in each of the past two seasons in Minnesota – brings to the table. “I’m going to give you quality at-bats, so we’ll see how it goes from here on out,” said the newest PawSox member.
EXTRA BASES: Knuckleballer Steven Wright was promoted from Double-A Portland Wednesday as the PawSox placed pitcher Tony Pena Jr. on the disabled list with a left ankle sprain. Acquired from Cleveland as part of the Lars Anderson trade, Wright tossed a bullpen session Wednesday as he appears on track to start Saturday at Rochester. That would mean Nelson Figueroa would follow Daisuke Matsuzaka to the hill Friday night. … The home stand closes out Thursday at high noon with Billy Buckner seeking to build on his recent good fortune against Syracuse’s Jeff Mandel. The righty Buckner has won his last three starts. … The PawSox have announced that tickets from all possible 2012 home playoff games are now on sale. For more information, stop by the McCoy box office, call (401) 724-7300 or visit www.pawsox.com .