|FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 09: Manager Bobby Valentine #25 of the Boston Red Sox. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)|
For a while there were a fair amount of people that didn't expect Valentine to survive his first year in Beantown. Now that the Red Sox are winning and their manager has made something out of nothing, it's time to give credit where credit is due.
Injuries have all but dismantled the Sox in the early months of the season, the latest a thumb injury that will keep Dustin Pedroia out at least a game, but the team has excelled and Bobby has found a way to squeeze every ounce of production from role players and Triple-A call-ups.
Maybe the boldest thing Bobby V has done all season is insert his gold glove first baseman, Adrian Gonzalez, in right field in order to keep Will Middlebrooks and Kevin Youkilis in the lineup. What are the odds Terry Francona would have used A-Gon out there in right this often?
It's that kind of unconventional managing that has turned the Red Sox around and got them back to winning ball games. Most teams in the majors would have sunk with the hand dealt to the Sox this season.
When Andrew Bailey was lost and Mark Melancon threw up a near 50 ERA, it was easy to assume the bullpen would be doomed from start to finish. Instead, Bobby has mixed, matched and guessed his way to a stunning turnaround from the teams relief corps.
An example of his instincts in the bullpen is Scott Atchison. Last season Atch was a quality reliever, not dominant but good enough to post an ERA under 4.00. This season, his ERA is under 1.00 and Bobby hasn't shied away from using him in the late innings of close games, something Tito rarely did with him even when he was going good.
There's a good chance the 36 year old regresses but right now he's getting outs and until that stops, Valentine is going to take advantage. Something he does quite well.
I don't know about you but I love Bobby V's willingness to take a chance. Things like batting Nick Punto leadoff are moves that most managers wouldn't even consider but when you get tough breaks like the Sox have had this season, it takes some thinking out of the box to get the job done.
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