Bobby Valentine may pack more of a punch than the Boston Red Sox lineup.
His words are creating more of a stir.
The embattled manager hopes to move beyond his controversial comments as the Red Sox return to Fenway Park after a dismal road trip to face the last-place Toronto Blue Jays on Friday night.
Valentine’s first year in Boston (63-75) has been an extremely difficult one with the team headed for its second straight year out of the postseason.
There has been talk that Valentine’s job could be in jeopardy and the manager didn’t help himself with some controversial comments.
Valentine claimed he was kidding when he threatened to punch a talk-show host in the mouth Wednesday, making the comment during an interview on Boston radio station WEEI with hosts Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley.
“Didn’t I go, ‘Ha, ha?’” Valentine said. “I don’t think physical violence is necessary for 60-year-old people.”
The issue stemmed from a report that Valentine arrived later than normal for a game in Oakland last week, and he was asked if he’s “checked out” on the season.
“What an embarrassing thing to say. If I were there right now, I’d punch you right in the mouth. Ha, ha,” said Valentine, who explained to reporters later that he was late due to traffic after picking up his son at the airport in San Francisco.
The Red Sox’s travels went far worse than that, losing eight of nine on a West Coast trip while averaging 2.3 runs and hitting .223. They capped that dismal stretch by mustering five hits in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Seattle.
“This was not a good road trip, obviously,” Valentine said. “One of the worst I’ve ever experienced.”
Cody Ross continues to be one of the few offensive bright spots, getting three hits Wednesday to give him a .341 average with 11 RBIs in 11 games. He’s been even better over his last 13 home contests, hitting .407 while knocking in 12 runs.
Boston may need Ross to continue his hot hitting with struggling Felix Doubront (10-7, 5.03 ERA) scheduled to take the mound.
The left-hander is 0-3 with a 7.85 ERA over his last six starts, and he’s pitched beyond the fifth inning just once in that span. His latest start was the shortest of his career, getting tagged for five runs and six hits over three innings of a 7-1 loss to Oakland.
Doubront is 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA in three outings against Toronto this year. He gave up seven runs - five earned - and 11 hits in six innings of a 9-6 loss June 25 at Fenway.
Henderson Alvarez (7-12, 5.04) beat Doubront in that matchup, allowing five runs - three earned - in five innings. The right-hander won at Boston again July 22, despite getting tagged for seven runs and two homers in 5 2-3 innings of a 15-7 victory.
Like Doubront, however, Alvarez has struggled in his last six games, going 0-5 with a 7.67 ERA.
He lost again Saturday, yielding four runs and five hits with four walks in five innings of a 5-4 defeat to Tampa Bay.
Toronto is trying to build on Wednesday’s 6-4 win over Baltimore, ending a four-game slide.