That is why Coco Crisp was back in center field on Friday night after missing the last five starts with a left oblique strain.
Sure, there was a temptation to give Pena another start.
"Yeah, that's human nature," Francona said. "[But] it is a big outfield. We can always pinch-hit him. Again, when you've got a pitcher like Daisuke [Matsuzaka] pitching, I think it's important to have defense. Like I said, it's a big outfield."
What was the determining factor for Crisp's re-entry?
"I told him [Thursday] night that I'd call and check with him today just because I wanted to put the lineup up before it got late," Francona said. "I called and the trainers called, and he said he felt great. And I also told him that if he has any apprehension, we'll get him out of there. He said he doesn't foresee any problem."
Now, Crisp will try to ignore the layoff and the lingering effects of the injury and try to regain the stroke he had right before being sidelined. After a prolonged funk, Crisp produced eight hits in 20 at-bats, including a game-tying two-run triple against Mariano Rivera on April 20.
In his first at-bat in the second inning, Crisp singled past a diving Derek Jeter.
"If he doesn't hit tonight, I can understand why," Francona said. "I would love for him to step in and get hot, but if he runs some balls down in center if need be, that can be just as important."
Great news for Lester: Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester's latest medical checkup, which took place Thursday in Boston, produced the news everyone wanted. He remains cancer-free.
"He had a real good day yesterday, a very exciting day," said Francona. "[Team internist] Larry Ronan had told me, 'He's going to get good news.' It was a very good day."
On Friday night, pitching for Triple-A Pawtucket against the Buffalo Bisons, Lester pitched five scoreless innings, scattering three hits in an 84-pitch outing. The southpaw also recorded six strikeouts and his fastball topped out at 95 mph.
He'll pitch again for Pawtucket on Wednesday, and at that point, the Red Sox will make a determination on his next step.
Schilling blogs back: Sox ace Curt Schilling aired his thoughts on Sock-gate during an expansive post on his own blog, 38pitches.com.
Schilling was clearly not amused. In fact, the righty has an idea for anyone who has any question about the validity of the sock, which currently resides at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"Someone gave me a great idea to end this once and for all," wrote Schilling. "No one will ever need to bring it up again. I'll wager $1 million to the charity of anyone's choice, versus the same amount to ALS. If the blood on the sock is fake, I'll donate a million dollars to that person's charity; if not, they donate that amount to ALS. Any takers?"
The whole incident stemmed from Orioles broadcaster Gary Thorne's inaccurate representation of thoughts by Sox catcher Doug Mirabelli. Thorne intimated that Schilling didn't actually have blood on his sock during the 2004 postseason, citing a conversation with Mirabelli that it was all a public relations stunt. Thorne has since apologized and said he misunderstood Mirabelli.
Schilling was mystified with the way the story took on a life of its own over the last couple of days.
"It was blood," he said. "You can choose to believe whatever you need to, but facts are facts. The 25 guys that were in that locker room, the coaches, they all know it. In the end, nothing else really matters. The people that need to believe otherwise are people with their own insecurities and issues."
Home sweet home: Perhaps Yankee Stadium, which isn't more than a tape-measure home run from where Manny Ramirez was a high school superstar at Washington Heights, will get the star slugger's bat in high gear.
Ramirez has always hit well at Yankee Stadium, where he entered the night with a .313 career average, 24 homers and 67 RBIs.
The left fielder had uncharacteristic numbers (.192, two homers, 11 RBIs) heading into the weekend showdown with the Yankees. He began the series with a solid single up the middle.
"He's just too good a hitter," Francona said. "He's run into a little bit of bad luck. He's taking more good swings than he did earlier. I have said it probably six times ... on the cusp, and I still believe that. Even if he wasn't, he's a great hitter and he'll figure it out. We all hope he figures it out sooner rather than later."
On deck: Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (2-2, 2.08) faces Jeff Karstens (0-1, 14.54) in Saturday afternoon's 3:55 ET contest.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less