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Nixon makes his return to Fenway

Nixon makes his return to Fenway

Fan favorite Trot Nixon comes back to Fenway Park in what is certain to be an emotional return Monday night for the longtime Boston right fielder, his former teammates and the citizens of Red Sox Nation.

Nixon, 33, spent his first 13 years in the Red Sox organization and was a fixture near Pesky's Pole for eight seasons (1999-2006). But he left a lot of his body on the Fenway grass, basepaths and walls, and in his final three seasons Nixon averaged only 95 games played, a .278 average, nine home runs and 47 RBIs.

Frustrated by his diminishing availability and production, the Sox last winter opted to sign J.D. Drew and set Nixon free. Nixon wound up signing in mid-January with Cleveland, and entered Sunday batting .282 with two home runs and 20 RBIs. He had played in 37 of the Indians' first 47 games.

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"It's going to be weird playing against him," Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek admitted. "The guy wore this uniform with his heart and soul his whole career. He's a tough one to see wearing a different uniform."

While lacked of durability proved to be Nixon's downfall, it was his unquestioned desire and determination that made him so respected by teammates and beloved by Red Sox fans. Varitek said he expects Nixon to receive a rousing welcome from the Fenway faithful.

"He brought everything," Varitek said. "He played the game right, left it on the field. He was a very good player and a great teammate -- a guy you'd want in your foxhole. He was a guy that exemplified wearing this uniform.

"He made it well known that he wanted to stay here. That didn't come to fruition, but I'd imagine nothing less than a standing ovation for him."

Boston manager Terry Francona said he understands the mixed emotions that will accompany Nixon's return to Fenway.

"He'll go through that wall, trying to be a good player for your team, and I'll always respect that," Francona said. "Everybody remembers the dirty hat, the dirty helmet. He's an easy guy to like, not just for me and the coaches and his teammates, but for the fans. He's a pretty neat guy. He's a down-and-dirty, play-hard type of guy."

Francona intimated, however, that Nixon's Red Sox career might have been prolonged had he learned when it would be judicious to ease his foot off the pedal.

"He always plays the game real hard and gives it everything he has. Sometimes, too much," Francona said. "Sometimes he'd play himself onto the DL, because he didn't want to tell you he was hurt and would still run through the wall. But, even though you don't want to lose good players, you appreciated his attitude, always."

Charged with stopping Nixon from having a storybook night Monday is Red Sox right-hander Curt Schilling, who has won just one of his last five starts and is coming off an 8-3 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday. In that game, Schilling gave up six runs (five earned) on 12 hits in six innings, the most hits he has allowed in a single start since April 2004. He spent the past few days tinkering with his delivery in an attempt to get back on track

"I don't think Schill needs to reinvent himself, he just has to locate his fastball better," Francona said. "He's not going to show up throwing like [Luis] Tiant or anything. He just needs to locate his fastball."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Curt Schilling (4-2, 3.94 ERA)
Schilling is 1-2 with a 4.40 ERA in six career games (four starts) against the Indians. He is facing Cleveland for the first time this season. Last year, he gave up five runs on nine hits and struck out eight in 6 2/3 innings in an April 25 start at Jacobs Field, but had a no-decision in Boston's 8-6 win.

CLE: LHP Cliff Lee (2-1, 5.93 ERA)
Lee is coming off an 11-7 loss to Kansas City in which he gave up seven runs in the first two innings. He allowed a season-high eight runs in 4 1/3 innings in that loss to the Royals, his fifth start of the season. Lee is 2-1 with a 3.45 ERA in five career starts against Boston.

Player to watch
Red Sox outfielder Wily Mo Pena is 2-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs in his career against Lee.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• NESN

On radio
• WRKO 680, WROL (Español)

Up next
• Tuesday: Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 1-4, 6.29) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 7-0, 2.66), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Indians (Paul Byrd, 5-1, 3.81) at Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 7-2, 4.43), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Off-day

Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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