Valentine defends handling of Ellsbury

NEW YORK -- It didn’t receive the same attention as Dustin Pedroia’s decision to play Tuesday night with a broken finger, but after a one-night absence, Jacoby Ellsbury was back in the Red Sox lineup too.

Ellsbury played two games this weekend after missing six games with a physical issue he declined to disclose, other than to characterize it as “nothing really exciting to report on.’’ He did say he was “definitely excited” to be back, and said he was looking forward to “finish strong.’’

That was Saturday night, after his first game back. Ellsbury played again Sunday afternoon in Baltimore, but was not in the lineup Monday night against the Yankees. Bobby Valentine explained Tuesday why he elected to sit Ellsbury against left-hander CC Sabathia in favor of rookie Che-Hsuan Lin.

“CC was pitching,’’ Valentine said, “and I saw [Ellsbury] face [lefty Joe] Saunders a couple days before, with his breaking ball. I thought it was a situation where a right-handed [hitter] might do better, and Lin got half of our hits, so maybe that hunch was OK.’’

Lin was called out on strikes in his first at-bat (Valentine said it was ball four), then had two ground-ball singles in his last two at-bats.

Still, it was a bit startling that Valentine opted for a rookie outfielder who had been called up four times from Pawtucket this season, twice for just a day, a third time for less than a week, over the 2011 American League MVP runner-up. When it was suggested that might not sit well with certain folk, like the Baltimore Orioles, who were trying to keep pace with the Yankees in the AL East, Valentine defended his decision further.

“I thought I was playing a team that was giving us a good chance to win,’’ he said. “It’s a big center field. Lin’s a very good defensive player. Ells really hasn’t hit that well against left-handers. And Lin got two hits last night.

“Clay [Buchholz] was going to give us a chance to win by pitching well and our offense wasn’t going to be able to outmatch them. We were hoping to outpitch them, a little defense would have helped, I thought.’’

Valentine snickered. “So that’s that. Thank you.’’

The Yankees rode a nine-run second inning to a 10-2 victory.