"We're just trying to win every game we can," Francona said. "There's some other factors, too."
For example, Olerud has aging legs that need monitoring. Millar is a far better hitter at Fenway Park (.300 average, seven homers, 30 RBIs) than on the road (.251, one homer, 18 RBIs). The left-handed-hitting Olerud will likely start against more right-handed pitchers, while Millar figures to always start against lefties. And then there is the matter of each hitter's track record against the opposing starter that night.
Olerud went into Tuesday's game 7-for-25 lifetime against Angels starter John Lackey with two doubles and a homer. Millar, who was not in the lineup, was 2-for-8 with one homer against the right-hander.
Last week, it seemed as if Francona was waving a magic wand with his decisions at first base. In a seven-day span ending
Sunday, Millar and Olerud combined to go 15-for-32 with six homers and 17 RBIs.
"I think this last week is a good example of how it can work," Francona said. "I thought it worked great. Is Millar going to run in here and say, 'Thanks a lot for not playing me today?' No, I don't want him to. But he accepts it and does what he's supposed to do. It's not a problem. We won and we got great production -- that's what we're trying to do."
Reinforcements arrive: A couple of familiar faces returned to Fenway Park on Tuesday, as catcher Kelly Shoppach and reliever Manny Delcarmen were both activated a day after Triple-A Pawtucket played its season finale.
Shoppach would have arrived on Sept. 1, the date rosters could expand, if not for an ankle injury.
"He played five innings yesterday and managed it pretty well," Francona said. "I don't think he's ready to run the 100-yard dash. He did what he needed to do and I actually thought he got through it pretty well, so that's good."
Delcarmen, who consistently gives the radar gun a good workout, adds further depth to the bullpen.
Damon back: As expected, center fielder Johnny Damon (left shoulder soreness) returned to the lineup after a one-day breather.
"He called and said, 'Put him in there,' " said Francona.
Damon was hindered by right shoulder problems in the first half. Despite all the nags he's had this season, Damon continues to be a vital spark.
"I don't think there's a part in his body that feels good, I really don't," Francona said. "His legs, his shoulders, he got stung by a bee. That's just the way it is. We all see, as the day progresses, he just gets himself ready to play. And as the game progresses, he gets into the flow of the game and I think he somehow manages to block stuff like that out and be productive. It can be pretty amazing, but it's good for us because we need him to do that."
Lester honored: In another sign of the positive state of the Boston farm system, left-hander Jon Lester -- the club's first draft pick in 2002 -- was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. With Double-A Portland, Lester led the league in both ERA (2.61) and strikeouts (163). He threw three complete games.
On deck: Bronson Arroyo (11-9, 4.47 ERA) will face Ervin Santana (8-6, 4.52 ERA) in the second game of this three-game series against the Angels on Wednesday night.