Youk Takes A Seat

A national columnist suggested the Rockies should ditch the humidor—the device that softened up baseballs and spelled the end of daily video game baseball in Denver—in an attempt to get back into the World Series. If Major League Baseball wouldn't go for that, it sure wouldn't allow the Red Sox to bat David Ortiz instead of the pitcher during the three games in Colorado.

So with no last-second rule change on the horizon, Terry Francona announced Friday Ortiz—the Sox' regular designated hitter—would play first base in Game Three tonight. Mike Lowell, who led the Sox with 120 RBI during the regular season, will remain at third base, which means Kevin Youkilis—the Sox' hottest hitter this month—will sit tonight.

"I think David is a really good hitter, and I think Mike Lowell is a really good hitter, and I actually think ‘Youk' is a really good hitter," Francona told reporters Friday. "But they won't let us play all three of them. So we'll go with this. The hope would be we'd have a lead [and] we'll put ‘Youk' in late. It doesn't always work perfect, but we'll do the best we can."

What to do with Ortiz in the National League city is a far tougher decision for Francona than it was in 2004. Ortiz, who hit a career-high .332 with 35 homers and 117 RBI this season, is more hobbled now—he's battled a sore knee for months—than then, and there is some concern over how he'll be able to handle the defensive duties at first.

In addition, the 2004 Sox had the solid but far from sensational Kevin Millar starting at first base and Doug Mientkiewicz serving as the late-inning defensive replacement. These Sox have Youkilis, who didn't make an error in 1,079 chances at first base this season and evolved into a reliable no. 2 hitter (.288 with 16 homers and 83 RBI in the regular season). Given his proficiency at first base, it's easy to forget he came up as a third baseman, but Francona sounded reluctant to try him at the hot corner after he played just 13 games there this season.

"When you say ‘another option,' I guess I'd have to say what would the option be?'" Francona said. "We sat down and tried to talk through it logically, and I guess we felt like this was the best thing to do. You're talking about a guy that drove in 120—two guys that drove in 120, and we love Youkilis as a hitter too. It's a difficult situation to be in, but I don't have any second-guessing about what we're doing. I'd just rather play all three of them."

Francona declined to look ahead to a possible Game Four lineup but said the reshuffled Game Three lineup would likely feature rookies Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia batting first and second. Ellsbury has batted eighth or ninth in his first four playoff starts while Pedroia has hit .275 with seven extra-base hits in 51 at-bats as the Sox' leadoff batter this month.

"Hopefully Ellsbury's legs come into play," Francona said. "‘Pedey's bat control [also comes into play] and we don't have the lefties back-to-back."

Daisuke Matsuzaka, scheduled to start tonight's Game Three, was 0-for-4 this season. Jon Lester, the scheduled Game Four starter, did not bat in the majors this year while Josh Beckett—who will start a Game Five, if necessary—was 2-for-11 with an RBI this season.


Diehard managing editor Jerry Beach can be reached at diehardmag@yahoo.com. To receive a free issue of Diehard, call 888-501-5752. To subscribe to Diehard or diehardmagazine.com, please CLICK HERE

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