Red Sox pregame notes: David Ortiz gets a breather; Lineup's fifth spot gets overhaul

Rob Bradford
August 08, 2013 - 4:52 pm

KANSAS CITY -- John Farrell executed what he termed as "probably the biggest shift that we've made in any one game all year," in regards to the Red Sox' lineup against the Royals Thursday night. One portion of that strategy was simply temporary, while another figures to be a trend. Sitting out against Kansas City starter Bruce Chen was designated hitter David Ortiz, who was replaced at the DH spot by Mike Napoli, with Jonny Gomes sliding into the cleanup role. The reason behind the move, according to Farrell, was the need to get Ortiz off his feet after reaching base 11 times in the Sox' three-game set against the Astros. "I want to be clear, it's not injury related," Farrell said. "Just overall a day for him. I think he was on base about [11] times in the series, and he's been running aggressively." Not only has Ortiz been operating on the basepaths without hesitation, he has shown an aggressiveness not seen from the DH in years. He has already notched a career-high four stolen bases. "We've had to almost kind of tone him down a little bit," Farrell said. "He's attempted to steal some bases with two outs and two strikes on the hitter. There's some thought behind that, but he's in a good place overall, physically. We probably expected there to be more off days up to now than he's asked for. We're clearly in positive territory with David." While Ortiz will return to the cleanup spot when he reemerges in the lineup, Friday, the slot behind him figures to start fluctuating more than any time this season. Thursday, Stephen Drew got the nod to hit in the fifth spot, becoming the seventh Sox hitter to bat int he position. (Napoli has 293 at-bats in the five-hole, with Will Middlebrooks totaling the second-most this season at 35.) "It will be matchups and likely against some right-handed starters, we'll probably put another left-hander behind David," Farrell said. "Mike is well aware of that. Against some lefties, Mike could find himself in that spot, in the five-hole as well. To Mike's credit, it's about whatever we have to do to win tonight. He's the ultimate team player. ... Mike and I both recognize he's going through a stretch here where he's been grinding. Hopefully moving him out a slot just gives him a little breather." The Red Sox came into Thursday night with the 23rd best batting average out of their No. 5 spot (.232), with the Yankees sitting in last at .196. In other Red Sox news ... - Clay Buchholz will throw another bullpen session Friday, upping his pitch total from 27 to around 35. The pitcher tossed aggressively from 90 feet Thursday. - After turning in another one-inning outing for Double-A Portland Wednesday, Franklin Morales is on the cusp of returning to the Red Sox. "He's ready to come back to us," said Farrell of the lefty. "We've got to when and who the replacement would be. But it's encouraging that he's making not only the repeated outings, but coming out of each feeling as well as he has. I think we've come to know that three lefties in the bullpen is a little bit of a luxury. And now particularly with [Brandon] Workman's ability to go multiple abilities, [Rubby] De La Rosa and [Drake] Britton's ability to do the same. Left/right, it gives us a little more flexibility if we choose to go with that third one." - If all went well with his examination (concussion) in Pittsburgh Thursday, David Ross is slated to play for Double-A Portland Friday. - Reliever Alex Wilson, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a thumb injury, seemingly took a step back in his recovery. The righty last pitched Monday, going 1 1/3 innings for Triple-A Pawtucket. "He's currently not scheduled for another outing," Farrell said. "He's experienced a little soreness in that thumb again and we've got to get that thoroughly checked again."

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