BOSTON -- Pedro Ciriaco played his 15th game as the Red Sox's leadoff hitter on Friday night against the Orioles, and yet manager Bobby Valentine couldn't put his finger on the reasons why.
Ciriaco has drawn just six walks in 65 games this season -- the lowest walk total of any Major League player with at least 220 plate appearances -- but Valentine says Ciriaco just makes sense in the first spot.
"With this mix, I just think it's a good blend of our talents to have him there," Valentine said.
While Ciriaco's .313 on-base percentage leaves much to be desired, he has continued to produce quality at-bats and carried a .294 average into Friday's game. As a leadoff hitter, he boasts a .316 average and has scored 12 runs in 14 games.
Perhaps more impressive, Ciriaco has stolen 15 bases and has yet to be caught. Valentine said he's given him the green light to steal whenever he feels appropriate.
There's little question that Ciriaco has done well out of the spot, but it's a testament to Valentine's managing style that he would use a player with one of the lowest walk rates in the entire league out of the top spot in the batting order.
Iglesias: 'Every day you're learning something'
BOSTON -- There was a moment during Thursday night's 7-4 loss to the Rays that left Jose Iglesias looking more and more like he fit on a Major League roster.
After smashing a ninth-inning home run -- a no-doubter that cleared the first few rows of seats in deep left-center field -- Iglesias ran hard around the bases without cracking a smile.
When Iglesias walked into the dugout, his teammates gave him the silent treatment for a moment, so he calmly put his bat and helmet away and sat down.
It was his first career homer, but the 22-year-old hardly looked phased.
Iglesias was eventually mobbed, high-fived, smacked and hugged.
"It was just one, but I really enjoyed it," he said on Friday. "I've just been feeling great the last few days. I feel more comfortable on the field, but also off the field."
If Iglesias can build off some of that momentum after his 3-for-4 performance, he could open some eyes as he continues to build a resume he hopes will land him a starting job next spring.
The Cuban defector signed an $8.25 million deal over four years which began after the 2009 season, so he still has two more years with the Red Sox to prove his worth as an everyday player.
The defensive whiz has just five hits in 39 at-bats with the Sox in 2012, though, and three of the hits came on Thursday.
Although the Sox are just playing out the string, he doesn't mind being judged on such a small sample size.
"Baseball is always the same," he said. "We're in the big leagues, we're facing big league pitchers and we have fun. That's all we can do in this game.
"Every day you're learning something. You never stop learning."
Meanwhile, Mike Aviles has become somewhat of an odd man out, getting just three at-bats in the last five games. Valentine said he had no idea how much playing time Aviles would get down the final stretch.
"I wish I had that figured out, for his sake," Valentine said. "I'm not sure. ... I know he has 500-plus at-bats and he's had a heck of season."
Stewart called up, likely to get one more start
BOSTON -- The last (and first) time Zach Stewart took the mound for the Red Sox was a disaster. The 25-year-old righty surrendered nine earned runs over three innings in a losing effort to the Angels on Aug. 29.
Manager Bobby Valentine will give Stewart at least one more chance to leave an impression on the Boston front office in a start that will likely come against the Orioles next Friday -- the first in a three-game series that could help decide the fate of the American League East or AL Wild Card race.
The former third-round Draft pick put up fair numbers with Triple-A Pawtucket this season, going 3-5 with 42 strikeouts to 14 walks and a 3.94 ERA over 11 starts. His career ERA in 100 1/3 Major League innings is 6.55.
Stewart was one of three additions to the Red Sox's roster made before Friday's game.
Third baseman Danny Valencia and right-handed pitcher Pedro Beato were also in uniform, and Valentine said both will likely be used in reserve roles whenever needed over Boston's final 11 games.
On second thought, Jacoby Ellsbury probably shouldn't have played in Thursday's 7-4 walk-off loss to the Rays.
That's what Valentine told reporters before Friday night's tilt with the Orioles in which Ellsbury's name was not in the lineup, citing a "little situation" that the outfielder has been dealing with.
Valentine said he was unsure how to explain Ellsbury's latest injury, but "we're making sure it's nothing more than a little situation."
With six of the Sox's last 11 games against the Orioles, Valentine was asked what it felt like to try to play spoiler in the opposition's run to an AL East title.
"I don't get a lot of glee out of other people's misery," the manager said, "but I want our team to play as well as they can in front of our fans, because this is their last homestand. They've given everything they've got every time they go out on the field. The guys have a lot of pride. We'll try to do our best."
Daisuke Matsuzaka will have his next turn in the rotation skipped but will likely make one last start this season, Valentine said. Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester, Felix Doubront and Aaron Cook all figure to get two more.
Dustin Pedroia was supposed to get Friday's game off, after arriving back to his Boston home (and newborn child) at 4 a.m. ET on Friday due to a long flight from Florida. But when Valentine suggested the idea, Pedroia wouldn't let it happen.
"That's Dustin," Valentine said. "You got to love him."
Jason Mastrodonato is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.