Enter Pedro Ciriaco.
The Red Sox utilityman has been a spark plug since he was added to the big league roster from Triple-A Pawtucket on July 6. Time and again, especially against the New York Yankees, the 26-year-old has produced both offensively and defensively.
In the opener of a three-game series against the Yankees on Tuesday night at Fenway Park, Ciriaco went 2-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. He scored the winning run in the bottom of the ninth when he came home from second base on Jacoby Ellsbury’s base hit to right field.
“He’s been playing great for us,” Ellsbury said of Ciriaco. “He’s been huge all season for us. He was again in the ninth inning, getting on and once he got on second I knew any ball hit to the outfield, he was scoring with his speed.”
Even with the arm of Yankees right fielder Ichiro Suzuki?
“Yeah, I’ll take Ciri’s speed, a deep right field at Fenway, I’ll take Ciri any day,” Ellsbury said.
Ciriaco is 17-for-35 (.486) with 7 RBIs, 11 runs scored and 4 stolen bases in nine games against the Yankees this season. In fact, five of his 13 multihit games this year have come against New York.
“I don’t know,” Ciriaco said when asked what his secret was to playing so well against the Yankees. “I just try to play hard every time I come to play, but I think I got a little bit lucky tonight. I just tried to hit the ball and the ball found the holes. I’m happy that we got a win tonight.”
On July 7 and Aug. 18, Ciriaco collected a pair of four-hit games against the Yankees to become the first Red Sox player since Wade Boggs (1989) to accomplish that feat in one season.
“He’s a good player, man. He’s a good player,” Ortiz said. “He showed his skills in spring training and I know Bobby wanted him on the team, but he wasn’t on the roster, so he had to take some other guys. Now that he finally got him, the kid is showing what he can do. This is what he showed during spring training. The guy’s hungry and he’s trying to put some thoughts in peoples’ head and go from there.”
Red Sox rookie catcher Ryan Lavarnway spent the majority of the season as Ciriaco’s teammate in Pawtucket. During his time with the PawSox, Ciriaco mostly played second base since prospect Jose Iglesias was at shortstop. Once Iglesias landed on the disabled list with a back strain, Ciriaco was moved to the left side of the infield.
When he got called up to Boston, he mostly played shortstop until rookie third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a broken wrist on Aug. 11. In total, Ciriaco has played 21 games at third, 11 at shortstop, nine at second base, six as the DH and one game in left field.
“Ciriaco has done a phenomenal job,” Lavarnway said. “I don’t think we can ask any more of him, especially [against the Yankees]. I’ve had the pleasure of watching him all year in Triple-A and I don’t think I ever saw him go two days in a row without getting a hit. And if he didn’t get a hit one day, he’s going to get three the next two. He’s amazing.”
Ciriaco's defense has been solid and his speed has been a difference-maker for the Red Sox. He made three Gold Glove caliber plays at third Tuesday night -- a diving grab and throw, a bare-handed play and a catch on what appeared to be a routine pop-up that was made difficult since a baserunner got in his way.
“The play he made on the ball down the line, I didn’t think there was any way he could make that play, and then the backhanded play James [Loney] made by picking it on the other end was the highlight of the play,” Valentine said. “Ciriaco has played well at third base for a guy who never played there before. We didn’t know if he could.” Valentine then knocked on the table twice as he said, “He’s played well.”
With the way he’s played this season, Ciriaco has given himself a serious chance at becoming the club’s everyday shortstop next season.