Gonzalez out of lineup 1st time this season

CHICAGO -- For the first time in 66 games this season, Adrian Gonzalez was not in the Red Sox starting lineup Sunday night.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said Gonzalez agreed when he told him after Saturday night's 4-3 win over the Cubs that it would be good to take a day off Sunday, especially with a scheduled day off Monday.

"He thought so, after the game yesterday, too,'' Valentine said. "Kind of a mutual admiration society. He's another one who has done everything we've asked. To be given an inkling that a day is needed and me not to receive the message would be something I would regret.

"It's been a tough stretch... Trying to read it.''

Gonzalez had responded with a bit of good-natured mockery Saturday night when someone asked him whether his two walks in the Sox win was a positive step.

“Yes, it’s in the right direction,’’ he said, all but rolling his eyes. “Yes, yes.’’

The Red Sox first baseman has not walked much this season -- Saturday was his first two-walk game since May 11, and he has walked just four times this month and 20 times this season, one reason his on-base percentage of .316 is nearly 100 percentage points lower than the career-best .410 OBP he posted in 2011, his first season with the Sox.

Saturday night, Valentine dropped Gonzalez to the sixth spot in the order for the third time this season. Gonzalez lined out to the track in center and struck out before walking in his final two at-bats, though he took a shot at a hit when he swung at a 3-and-0 pitch and lined it foul. That’s not something he’s done often. He has put the ball in play only eight times on a 3-and-0 pitch and has just one hit.

But when the hits have been coming in short supply, you take your shot. In his last seven games, Gonzalez has just 3 hits in 24 at-bats, all singles. He was 0-for-6 against the Cubs with three whiffs entering Sunday night’s game, and overall in June has posted a .236/.283/.364/.647 line.

Yet, Gonzalez insisted that his swing is trending in the right direction.

“Miami was one of the best series I’ve had,’’ he said. “I only got the three hits, but if you watched, the outs were hard outs, good at-bats, consistent at-bats. I could easily have had six, seven hits in Miami, but they just were not falling. The three worst balls I hit in the series were hits.

“I felt great in Miami. I was taking pitches. I was seeing pitches. I was making good contact, making good passes, but it was out, out, out, out.’’

Gonzalez has just two home runs in 109 plate appearances since May 18, and five overall. Last season on this date, he had 15.

“I’m not worried about that,’’ he said. “When I hit 40 [in 2009], I hit 20 in the first two months. I can go on those streaks. I’m not worried about that. Just trying to get to that swing. From there, then go.’’

Gonzalez has started 17 games in right field -- sometimes because of interleague play, sometimes so that Valentine could get both Will Middlebrooks and Kevin Youkilis in the lineup.

Gonzalez is batting .263 (15 for 57) in those games, with just four extra-base hits (3 doubles and a home run). But he insists the change in position is irrelevant to how he's hitting.

"Defense doesn’t carry over to offense,'' he said. "That's why playing right field doesn't change the way I hit. It's all the same. It shouldn’t [affect it]. If it does, then you've got issues.''

Gonzalez smiled when told that Valentine felt Gonzalez was tired in part because of all the extra running back and forth from right field.

"That's why you got to love him,'' Gonzalez said. "He says whatever is on his mind. I just smile. We have fun with all the quotes."