Red Sox notebook

Revamped lineup was a hit

Punto leads off as offense gets going

Alfredo Aceves surrendered a three-run shot to Miguel Cabrera that tied it in the ninth. Alfredo Aceves surrendered a three-run shot to Miguel Cabrera that tied it in the ninth. (Duane Burleson/Associated Press)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 9, 2012
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DETROIT - When the Red Sox lineup was revealed Sunday morning, the fact that Nick Punto was playing third base wasn’t a surprise. Kevin Youkilis was 0 for 8 in the first two games and had struck out four times.

That Bobby Valentine had Punto leading off seemed like a reach. Punto was a .169 hitter with a .244 on-base percentage in 176 career plate appearances as a leadoff hitter. It was the kind of move that probably had the baseball operations staff aghast. But Valentine dismissed the numbers.

“Personally, I don’t think that has anything to do with it,’’ he said before the game. “Just want to see what it looks like. See if it gives us a little spark. He’s a sparking kind of player who battles every at-bat.’’

Valentine proved correct. Punto was 3 for 6 with a double and three RBIs in a game the Red Sox lost, 13-12, in 11 innings.

“That’s just a tough, tough loss,’’ Punto said. “But it felt nice to get in there, get at the top of the lineup and try to help out. That’s the great thing about baseball, getting in those situations and helping the team. It kind of went for naught. That’s part of it, too.’’

With Punto atop the order, the Sox had 18 hits and wore out the Detroit pitching staff as Jim Leyland used seven relievers.

Valentine also used Darnell McDonald and Kelly Shoppach, two hitters who usually struggle against righthanders, against Detroit righthander Max Scherzer.

McDonald was 1 for 5 with a walk and two runs. Shoppach was 0 for 3, but was twice hit by pitches and scored one run.

Hitting back

Adrian Gonzalez belted a long home run in the sixth inning. When he came up again in the eighth inning, Tigers reliever Phil Coke hit him with his second pitch.

The first pitch, a 93-mile-per-hour fastball, was over his head.

“Obviously he was throwing at me,’’ Gonzalez said. “Look where that first pitch was. I guess they didn’t want me to hit another home run.’’

After Gonzalez was hit, Valentine came out to speak to umpire Dan Iassogna. After a brief discussion, crew chief Dale Scott warned both teams against further retaliation. Valentine fired his gum on the ground as he walked back.

Pedroia frustrated

Dustin Pedroia drove in the run that gave the Red Sox a 12-10 lead in the top of the 11th inning, then he watched the Tigers score three runs off Mark Melancon.

“It’s frustrating,’’ Pedroia said. “I thought we played pretty darn good. We swung the bats great. Got to come out tomorrow and play with the same energy we did today, swing the bats great and get our first win.’’

Is he worried about the bullpen? “We have confidence in every one of our guys,’’ Pedroia said. “[Detroit] is a good team over there. They swing the bats, they’ve got some studs. We’ll figure it out. We’re three games in. When Andrew [Bailey] went down there was some uncertainty on roles and stuff like that. That stuff will figure itself out.’’

Minor matters

Lefthanded relievers Rich Hill and Andrew Miller will remain with Single A Greenville as they continue their rehabilitation assignments. Miller is scheduled to pitch for the Drive Monday night. Hill will pitch Tuesday. Valentine indicated they would move on from there, presumably to a higher level in the minors . . . Josh Beckett reported no physical issues after his start Saturday, with his thumb or otherwise. “Mentally bruised, but physically fine,’’ Valentine said . . . Jacoby Ellsbury has a little bruise above his left eye. He got dinged up diving for a ball Saturday . . . Prince Fielder collected his 1,000th career hit when he singled in the first inning. Though the first 996 of his hits came for Milwaukee, the crowd gave him a nice ovation . . . The Harvard baseball team will take batting practice at Fenway Park Monday to commemorate the first baseball game at the park on April 9, 1912, when the Red Sox beat the Crimson in an exhibition game . . . Mayor Thomas M. Menino will take his annual tour of Fenway Monday to see the offseason enhancements . . . The Red Sox and Yankees are both 0-3 for the first time since 1966.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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