Big Papi ready to man first base

Big Papi ready to flash around some leather

Interleague Play in National League venues means different things to different teams. For the Red Sox, it means that David Ortiz gets to break out his mitt.

For the first time since last July, Ortiz will start at first base when the Red Sox open their Interleague slate against the Phillies on Friday night.

Regarded as the best designated hitter in baseball, the menacing Ortiz rarely has to play defense.

"Wish me good luck," quipped Ortiz, who has started 85 games at first since 2003, but just 10 last season.

Ortiz has proven in the past that he can play solid defense without much practice. Look no further than Game 3 of the 2004 World Series, when he made a perfect throw across the diamond to nail Jeff Suppan of the Cardinals at third base.

But this isn't to say that playing defense with a rusty glove is easy.

"I think he gets concerned about -- I don't know if embarrassing himself is the right word -- but he's a pretty proud guy," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "To go out there after not playing for what, six, seven, eight weeks, that's not fair. I just don't know what else to do. He did a great job in the World Series.

"We'll just do the best we can. The first thing is, I hope he doesn't hurt himself because he hasn't been out there much. I hope he doesn't make errors because he hasn't been out there much. ... We want to win and I don't want him to embarrass himself. We're asking him to do something he hasn't done."

Ortiz, who will likely start two of the three games against the Phils, is taking it all in stride.

"It's all good," said Ortiz. "I handle it. I'll tell you what the toughest thing about baseball is: Heat -- and I handle it."

The Red Sox, who have Matt Clement pitching the opener against Jon Lieber, will be dealing with a Phillies squad that has caught fire of late.

"It's always a good test," said Red Sox right fielder Trot Nixon. "Philly's got a good ballclub. It's National League rules. We're going to lose a hitter, but we'll have a good bench. We'll get good pitching, play good defense. It's just like it is in the American League. You just lose one hitter."

The other difference is that Boston's pitchers will have to take their first hacks of the season. Not that Francona wants them to take that many.

"With the pitchers hitting, we took them in the cage at home and had them bunting and hitting off the tee," Francona said. "I've come to the conclusion now that they do more harm than good. They go in there and hit and they get hurt [when] they swing too hard. Hopefully they can get a bunt down."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Matt Clement (3-4, 4.03 ERA)
Clement has been inconsistent thus far. In his last start, he gave up six hits and four runs over five innings, walking two and striking out four in a loss to the Rangers. Before being shut out last Friday in a rain-shortened game, the Red Sox had provided Clement with more run support (six runs per game) than any other Red Sox starter. Boston is 4-3 in Clement's previous seven starts.

PHI: RHP Jon Lieber (3-4, 5.50 ERA)
Lieber is coming off of one of the best performances of his long career. The veteran retired the first 20 batters he faced in and eventual two-hit shutout over 8 2/3 in beating the Reds, 2-0, on Saturday night. He's 1-1, with a 5.55 ERA in four career starts appearances against Boston, all coming as a member of the Yankees.

Player to watch
NL fans don't get to watch Ortiz's overpowering bat very often. The big slugger has 23 RBIs in his last 22 games.

Interleague by the numbers
All-time record vs. Phillies: 13-12
Interleague miscellany: The Red Sox went 12-6 in Interleague Play last season. ... Clement's four wins against NL foes last year tied Gil Meche and Brendan Donnelly for the lead among AL pitchers. ... Ortiz is a career .306 hitter against the Phillies with three homers and nine RBIs.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WEEI 850 AM, WROL 950 AM (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Red Sox (RHP Josh Beckett, 5-1, 4.24 ERA) at Phillies (RHP Brett Myers, 2-1, 2.73 ERA), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (LHP Lenny DiNardo, 1-1, 6.17 ERA) at Phillies (RHP Cory Lidle, 3-4, 5.12 ERA), 1:35 p.m. ET
• Monday: Red Sox (RHP Curt Schilling, 6-2, 4.17 ERA) vs. Yankees (RHP Chien-Ming Wang, 4-1, 3.79 ERA), 7:05 p.m. ET

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.