Mauro Gomez is back in Pawtucket, signalling the return of Dustin Pedroia to the Red Sox. Had it not been for the recent injury to Ortiz, this would have been the final piece to a healthy Red Sox lineup. The question is: what would that lineup have looked like, and what will it look like now?
For years, Dustin Pedroia has been the rock in the second spot. Over the last few days, however, Carl Crawford has been filling that role, and given his recent comments on his being dropped into the second half last year and how it negatively effected him, it seems unlikely that he's going to move far from that spot.
Last year the temporary solution was for Carl Crawford to hit third. It's hard to imagine the left fielder would take any umbrage with that move, but it's also hard to see this happening long-term. While David Ortiz is currently missing with his injured heel, when he's back the Sox can't very well remove him from the third spot. Add in Adrian Gonzalez' sudden revival, and there's also no long-term room at cleanup.
For now, I think that might be where Pedroia ends up, be it third (to preserve the alternating left-right if Bobby Valentine sees it as worthwhile--he hasn't recently) or fourth. Cody Ross might still get some play there against left-handed hitters, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia hasn't exactly been carrying his weight even against righties of late, and there's no other clear options just yet aside from Crawford, who I think Valentine might want to keep with Ellsbury up top for now.
Of course, Pedroia hasn't exactly been killing it in 2012 either. With a line of just .266/.326/.400, Pedey doesn't exactly fit the profile of a middle-of-the-order hitter. Still, this is Pedroia. He's not going to hit seventh or eighth, and he's probably not going to be kept down for the rest of the season, either. When his thumb seemed to be getting healthy, Pedroia rattled off a ten-game run where his numbers were closer to .325/.400/.500, and over the course of his career he's had no problem batting fourth given his ridiculous line of .397/.442/.675 in 139 plate appearances there.
The question is what's going to happen when Ortiz back? Given the way this season has gone so far, I'm not sure I feel comfortable speculating about a fully healthy Red Sox team firing on all cylinders. But should that miracle of miracles come to pass, it will be interesting to see how the Sox choose to work him in. My hope would be that Ortiz and Gonzalez are not moved from 3-4, with Crawford and Pedroia accommodating them--and again, given Crawford's comments, that likely means Pedroia fifth. For now, we can only wait and see.