"I'm just not comfortable with him not getting at-bats right now," said Francona. "If you don't play him, you're not going to see his power. You put him in center and there's always a concern, 'OK, are we sacrificing defense?'
Well, I don't know. But I'm going to get him out there in center field a little bit. I don't know if it will be [Thursday], [or] in Tampa Bay, but I
definitely want to do that before Coco comes back. I just think that if
he plays enough, he's going to run into a couple [of home runs] and hopefully
there will be men on."
Though Pena hasn't played center for the Sox, he has plenty of familiarity with the position. Pena has started 90 games in center in his career, just 19 fewer than the amount he's started in right.
"I just want to get in there. That's the only way to get better, to get in there more and more," said Pena.
Entering Wednesday, Pena had one homer and two RBIs in 27 at-bats. Pena put the Red Sox on the board in the fourth inning with a solo home run to right field.
Because the man he was traded for, Bronson Arroyo, is off to a lights outs start for the Reds, fans are bound to be impatient that Pena hasn't made an impact yet. But that's hard to do without regular playing time.
"I just have to be ready for it when it comes, whenever they can use me," said Pena. "Just playing every day, that's the only way you can get better. Tonight, there's a lefty, so I get a chance to play. I feel comfortable because here I'll just play more and more and more. When I was in the same [situation] with Cincinnati, I could go 15 days without even taking one at-bat. Here, when the lefties come, I just play and play and play. I feel good with that. I can get more of an opportunity to play."
Lowell getting hot: Quietly, third baseman Mike Lowell has been one of Boston's hottest hitters of late. He belted six hits in his first 14 at-bats on this road trip.
"I think he's done a good job," said Francona. "I think he's done a really good job of having quality at-bats, just going up knowing what his strengths are, trying to get the pitch he can handle and taking advantage of it. He swings at strikes for the very most part. He's a really good third baseman. He's a real pro."
Francona defends decision: A day later, Francona stood firmly behind his decision to allow ace Curt Schilling to throw 133 pitches -- the most by a Sox pitcher since 2001 -- over 6 2/3 innings in Tuesday's game.
"I actually did my weekly radio thing today and I thought they were kind of having fun at my expense, which I'm not really sure I appreciate," said Francona. "But I keep track of so many things and again, I'm not going to let Schill do that very often, maybe never again. But in that instance last night, I didn't think it was wrong. I just think the way some people handled it [in the media] wasn't very respectful.
"I made my decision and I don't think I'm perfect by any means, but I kind of stick by it. I'm pretty conscientious. I try to do the right thing. If you had told me he'd have that 11-pitch at-bat [with Jason Michaels] ... I would have probably not done it."
Schilling got a no-decision, but the Red Sox won the game, 8-6.
Papi's staggering clip: Crack Red Sox publicist John Blake put together a chart prior to Wednesday's game that illustrated just how dangerous David Ortiz has been in roughly his last half-season of at-bats.
In a span of 78 games dating back to July 31, 2005, Ortiz smashed 32 homers and drove in 78 runs. The only player to be reasonably close to Ortiz in both categories during that same time period? Andruw Jones of the Braves, who had 27 homers and 73 RBIs in his last 77 games.
Coming up: In a matchup of power vs. finesse, Josh Beckett (3-0, 2.54 ERA) will face Paul Byrd (2-2, 9.15 ERA) in the finale of this three-game series Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET.