Mike Aviles gives third base another try

Making his first start in center, Pedro Ciriaco had issues and was replaced in the fourth inning. Here, he and Daniel Nava failed to communicate and execute.
Making his first start in center, Pedro Ciriaco had issues and was replaced in the fourth inning. Here, he and Daniel Nava failed to communicate and execute.
J. Meric/getty images

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Mike Aviles and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are the only position players who have been on the active roster for all 151 Red Sox games this season.

Both have lost playing time in recent weeks with the Red Sox getting a closer look at rookies Ryan Lavarnway and Jose Iglesias.

“I understand what they’re doing,” Aviles said. “But that doesn’t make it much easier. I’ve come this far and I want to end the season on a good note.”

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So when manager Bobby Valentine offered Aviles the opportunity to play third base against Tampa Bay Thursday, he took it. Never mind that Aviles had not practiced at the position all season, including spring training.

“I just want to play,” he said. “Hopefully I can handle whatever comes at me.”

Aviles had three ground balls hit his way in the Sox’ 7-4 loss and handled them all cleanly.

Aviles started 14 games at third base for the Sox last season. He’s more comfortable at shortstop or second base. Valentine also offered him a spot in the outfield, but Aviles decided he wasn’t ready for that. He has played only 19 innings in the outfield in his career.

Valentine said leaving Aviles on the bench has been difficult.

“Mike’s played great,” said the manager. “He’s played more than he’s ever played; he’s played consistently. His defense has been, I think, amazing.

“His offense has been very productive. Obviously the walks aren’t there. But he’s gotten big hits and he’s hit good pitching. He’s run the bases well, stolen bases when we needed him to.

“Sitting isn’t his cup of tea, for sure. He should be very proud of the way he’s played. I also am very proud of the way he’s played and happy.”

To Valentine’s point, Aviles (who was 1 for 3) went into the game with a .281 on-base percentage. But he was hitting .295 with runners in scoring position with a .505 slugging percentage.

Atchison delivers

Righthanded reliever Scott Atchison is pitching with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. He spurned Tommy John surgery and tried a course of rest and rehab instead.

It seems to have worked. He has faced seven batters since coming off the DL and retired six of them. Atchison threw a perfect 1 innings Wednesday. He was 90-91 m.p.h. with his fastball and 86-87 with his slider. That’s right in line with his average velocity on the season, which was 90.3 on his fastball and 82.2 on his slider.

Is the 36-year-old Atchison a medical marvel?

“I don’t know about that,” he said. “I just know I can pitch and it doesn’t hurt like it used to.”

Atchison has a 1.68 earned run average and a 0.97 WHIP on the season. He has walked only nine batters over 48 innings.

“Atch looks exactly the same. Warming up, too,” Valentine said. “As he’s warming up, it’s almost the same number of pitches. They’re moving the same and it looks like the hitters are reacting to them the same.

“He’s not acting through it, it’s regular. There’s no grimacing in his face.”

Orioles up next

The Baltimore Orioles arrive at Fenway Park Friday night for the start of a three-game series. Baltimore has won four straight and is leading the American League wild-card race. The Orioles play six of their final 13 games against the Red Sox as they chase their first postseason berth since 1997. Until this year, the Orioles had not had a winning season since then. Jon Lester, who starts against Miguel Gonzalez Friday, is 14-0 with a 2.49 ERA in 20 career starts against Baltimore. It’s the longest win streak to begin a career against the Baltimore franchise since at least 1901. It also is the longest active win streak by a pitcher against a team. Lester has faced the Orioles twice this season without a decision. He has allowed five earned runs over 12 innings.

Very few repeats

The Red Sox have used 115 defensive lineups and 133 batting orders in 151 games . . . Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is throwing again, his broken right hand having healed. But he will not be swinging a bat before the end of the season. “That still hurts,” he said. “It’ll be another four weeks or so.” . . . Adrian Gonzalez, who was traded to the Dodgers Aug. 25, still leads the Red Sox with 86 RBIs. Cody Ross is next with 75. The Sox have not gone a full season without a player driving in 90 runs since 1992, when Tom Brunansky led the team with 74.