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Farrell slides Pedroia into leadoff role

MLB.com

NEW YORK -- As Shane Victorino moved closer to returning from the right hamstring strain that landed him on the 15-day disabled list just before Opening Day with another round of batting practice on Saturday, manager John Farrell continued to mix and match to fill the holes in the outfield and at the top of the lineup.

Farrell rolled out a new combination of outfielders -- Mike Carp in left, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Daniel Nava in right -- for the Red Sox's third game of a four-game set against the Yankees, as well as a new leadoff man in Dustin Pedroia.

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NEW YORK -- As Shane Victorino moved closer to returning from the right hamstring strain that landed him on the 15-day disabled list just before Opening Day with another round of batting practice on Saturday, manager John Farrell continued to mix and match to fill the holes in the outfield and at the top of the lineup.

Farrell rolled out a new combination of outfielders -- Mike Carp in left, Jackie Bradley Jr. in center and Daniel Nava in right -- for the Red Sox's third game of a four-game set against the Yankees, as well as a new leadoff man in Dustin Pedroia.

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Pedroia becomes the fourth leadoff man used by the Red Sox this year, moving up in place of Jonny Gomes, who got the day off after jump-starting the offense at the top of the order with a solo shot in Friday's 4-2 win. After a red-hot start in which he hit safely in each of the first six games, Pedroia has just two hits in his last 22 at-bats entering Saturday.

"It's more about the overall performance in the leadoff spot," Farrell said. "It's also a chance for Dustin to focus on just getting on base. I think there's been times when [Pedroia] has expanded the strike zone a little bit and forced the issue some, so another opportunity to get him to see some pitches. This is now the fourth different guy we've had in the leadoff spot, so we're looking for a combination and a little bit of a spark at the top."

The shuffle has been even more pronounced in the outfield, where the Carp-Bradley-Nava starting alignment becomes the eighth different combination Boston has used in 12 games this year. After initially thinking he'd start 2014 in Triple-A, Bradley has welcomed the opportunity to redeem the slow start to his rookie season with a much stronger showing in the first two weeks of his second April in the big leagues. In 10 games, he has posted a .785 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, well ahead of last year's .617 mark.

"It's been one of those things where you come to the field and look, see where you're playing, if you're playing, and whatever happens, happens," Bradley said. "For me, that's how it is."

"I think more than anything, he's a little more confident right now at this point and time of the year than he was at any point during the [2013] regular season," Farrell said of Bradley. "Spring Training last year, yeah, he was kind of the new kid on the block, but he's played exceptional defense for us and is putting up quality at-bats."

Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com.

Boston Red Sox