And the decision was rewarded when it was Gonzalez who came through with the go-ahead two-out RBI double to right that lifted the Red Sox to a 6-4 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday night at Fenway Park.
The hit came against lefty reliever Phil Coke.
"We looked at each other in the sixth and said, 'Do we do it now?' I said, 'It's too early. He's got to get up again.' He got up again and hit it over the fence on a hop, and I said, 'That's enough.' Then I should have pinch-ran for him, but I didn't," Valentine said.
Gonzalez came out in the top of the eighth, and the Red Sox took it from there.
"We joke around and say, 'Who's the one who's going to play the Little League game today since it's six or seven [innings], but it's just to good that we can have a better offensive team out there, and when it's time, we can make the switch," said Gonzalez.
When Boston's outfield got depleted beyond recognition last week, it was Gonzalez who told Valentine he would be glad to play right field. That way, Gonzalez, David Ortiz, Will Middlebrooks and Kevin Youkilis could all be in the lineup at the same time.
In this victory, Middlebrooks, Youkilis and Ortiz all homered, and Gonzalez ripped a pair of doubles.
The advantage of the alignment became more than evident in the fourth. With two outs, Gonzalez ripped a double to right-center and Ortiz hit a rocket over the wall in center. Youkilis singled and Middlebrooks hit a laser home run that screamed into the Monster Seats.
"Well, I think, [Adrian] was the first to say it," Valentine said. "He said, 'There we go.' We got four bats in the lineup instead of three and we just got four runs. I was the first to say, 'It's because of your unselfishness going to the outfield.' I guess that's what it's all about right now."
Playing undermanned again as Dustin Pedroia remains day to day with a torn adductor muscle in his right thumb, Boston again found a way.
It was the fourth win in the past five games for the Red Sox, who might still be in last place in the American League East but are suddenly just 2 1/2 games out of first.
"I feel anybody on the team would do whatever the team needs," Gonzalez said. "Nobody should ever put their results ahead of the team, because we're here for the team. We wear the Boston Red Sox in front of us, and that's what we're here for -- whatever the team needs. We're just playing good baseball. We always said if we play good baseball we're going to win games -- and that's what we're doing right now."
Jon Lester had a gritty performance, recovering from a shaky start to give up four runs over 6 2/3 innings. He walked none and struck out seven while giving up a season-high 10 hits.
Valentine felt Lester was far better than the line score indicated. Did he agree?
"I felt like I did," said Lester. "It's getting frustrating to have good stuff and get whacked around a little bit, but that being said, more importantly, try to go deep in the game. Guys gave me a chance to win, which is all you can ask for. Bullpen did a great job."
Alfredo Aceves came out of that bullpen for a fourth straight day and earned the save, No. 13 on the season.
"Aceves is like our pitching Pedroia. You just wind him up and say, 'Are you OK? [He says], 'I'm great.' He [was] throwing harder tonight than he's thrown the other [days] and with more control," said Valentine.
As for Lester, the Red Sox held a 4-3 lead when he walked off the mound with two outs in the seventh. But Miguel Cabrera looped one into right that Gonzalez tried to make a diving catch on, only to have it go off his glove. That tied the game.
"He played it perfectly," Valentine said. "The slide was timed perfectly, and he's under the ball and I've seen that ball fall 100 times."
Gonzalez got the lead back anyway, hitting that double over the head of Tigers right fielder Brennan Boesch.
"That was a heck of a pitch, maybe wanted it a little bit down more in the dirt, but still it was a heck of a pitch," said Tigers catcher Alex Avila. "He just was able to reach out there and just kind of golfed it."