Valentine sticks with Iglesias for now

ST. PETERSBURG -- Mike Aviles isn’t in the lineup for tonight’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays, as Jose Iglesias will start at shortstop for the 12th time in the past 20 games.

Manager Bobby Valentine said it's a tough situation, especially since Aviles won the job over Iglesias during spring training and is third among American League shortstops with 59 RBIs.

“Mike really wants to play, and I understand that totally,” Valentine said Wednesday. “Iggy’s just gotten on a little roll here and I just want to see how that roll will continue. It’s tough, though. Really tough.”

The 22-year-old Iglesias is hitless in the series and is batting .061 since being called up in August. But he has provided a spark from the No. 9 spot -- his hit-by-pitch led to Jacoby Ellsbury’s go-ahead home run Monday, and Iglesias walked and triggered a rally during Tuesday’s 7-5 win.

Valentine could put Aviles at third base to help spell an injured Will Middlebrooks, but the manager said he doesn’t plan on doing that.

“I’m not sure that’s fair to him -- he hasn’t taken a ground ball there all year,” Valentine said of Aviles, who has played 60 games at third in his career.

Pedro Ciriaco is the third baseman tonight, but Valentine said he may play the outfield during Thursday’s series finale. Valentine isn’t sure quite where.

“We’ll see how Ells (Jacoby Ellsbury) feels,” Valentine said. “It’s been a lot of days on turf.”

Ciriaco is hitting .292 with 18 RBIs and 14 steals in 63 games this year, and the Red Sox are still trying to figure out where he fits. He has seen time at every position this year except for first base, pitcher and catcher, though he has just played five games combined in left, center and right field.

“It’s OK to put him out there, but is it fair to the pitcher and the starting pitchers?,” Valentine said. “I don’t know. Maybe. If he makes a great play... It’s more like a wintertime/spring training project if he’s going to be an all-purpose guy or something like that. But he’s there to play there if we need him.”

Ciriaco’s ability to play the outfield will make him even more valuable to the Red Sox moving forward, especially if he keeps hitting like he has.

“I don’t know what the shape of our team will be next year, but it seems very valuable,” Valentine said. “And he can play out there.”

Valentine has been happy with the defensive play of first baseman James Loney, who came to Boston in August as part of the nine-player deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers that sent Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto out west.

“Adrian’s a tough comparison,” Valentine said of Gonzalez, a three-time Gold Glove winner at first. “I think (Loney’s) glove is comparable. The throw he made to second base on that double play (Monday) was excellent.”

Loney plays closer to the first-base line than Gonzalez did, which could change as the Red Sox and Loney get to know each other better.

“It’s a group thing,” Valentine said about how a first baseman positions himself. “It’s tough to group it now because we don’t know James. I don’t know how he goes to his left to push him off the line.”