A sacrifice executed

Gonzalez shows he’s team player

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / May 31, 2012
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A technician at the plate or at his customary position at first base, Adrian Gonzalez always has put in the time and the work to hone his craft.

He has studied religiously video of opposing pitchers and taken grounders at first as part of his routine.

But when Gonzalez volunteered to take on the added responsibility of playing right field to accommodate the bats of Kevin Youkilis, Will Middlebrooks, and David Ortiz in the Red Sox lineup, he expanded his workload to prepare to field his position in right.

“Playing first base, that comes easy to me,’’ said Gonzalez, a Gold Glover at that position. “I’ve done it my whole life. I can take 20 ground balls and that’s enough, whereas out there [in right field] I need constant, constant repetition so I know when the game comes, I’ve put in the work and now I just need to let it happen.

“But I need to put in the work because if not, then I’m not going to be prepared. I need to see topspin balls, I need to see backspin balls.

“Today the ball was carrying, so there were a couple of balls in BP where I think I’m camped and then the ball is another 10 feet back, so you got to know what the ball is doing, the conditions, and everything. So many more things come into play when you’re out there that I’m not as experienced at.’’

In Wednesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Tigers at Fenway Park, all four bats were in Bobby Valentine’s lineup, which meant Gonzalez was back in right field.

And all four factored into a four-run outburst in the fourth inning that enabled the Sox to erase a 3-0 deficit and take a 4-3 lead.

“Two first baseman and two third baseman account for four runs, terrific,’’ Valentine said.

But in Valentine’s estimation, it was Gonzalez’s unselfish nature that made it possible for all four bats to be in the Sox lineup.

“I think he was first to say it, ‘Well, here you go. We got four bats instead of three in the lineup and we got four runs,’ ’’ Valentine said. “I was the first to say, ‘It’s because of your unselfishness towards that outfield.’ I guess that’s what it’s all about right now.’’

Said Gonzalez, “I feel anybody on the team would do what I do. Nobody should ever put themselves ahead of the team, because we’re here for the team. We wear the ‘Boston Red Sox’ in front of [our uniforms] and that’s what we’re here for, so whatever it takes.’’

Gonzalez sparked the two-out, fourth-inning outburst when he drove a ground-rule double to the triangle in center.

“Adrian hits a line drive and it seemed like everything opened up,’’ Valentine said.

Ortiz followed with a homer to straightaway center off Tigers starter Drew Smyly. After Youkilis singled to right, Middlebrooks, the heir apparent at third, launched a rocket to the Green Monster seats.

Gonzalez, who went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles, drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh when he greeted reliever Phil Coke with a ground-rule double to right. That scored Daniel Nava, who had drawn a two-out walk from Octavio Dotel, and made it 5-4.

“He made a couple of front-door sliders and I tried to go away with both of them, but he’s a guy who has a good slider and he can run the fastball up or in on you,’’ Gonzalez said, referring to Coke. “So when I saw the pitch was in, I took a hack at it like it was a fastball.

“So after it was two strikes, I said, ‘He might go fastball, but he might also go slider, so try to stay on it.’ He left it up and more middle of the plate than he probably wanted to, and I was able to make a swing on it.’’

It atoned for his being unable to make a sliding catch of a shallow fly down the right field line by Miguel Cabrera in the top of the seventh that allowed the Tigers to score the tying run, 4-4.

Second baseman Nick Punto and Gonzalez both gave chase.

“I took a couple of peeks at him as I was running, trying to see if he was going to get there,’’ Gonzalez said. “When I realized he wasn’t, that’s when I went full-steam-ahead after it.

“I caught it at first, but when my elbow hit the ground, it popped out. It’s one of those I don’t practice too often. I wish I would’ve had it. It would’ve been good if they hadn’t gotten the run.

“I’ll give it my best shot next time.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at

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