The leadoff man was none other than right fielder J.D. Drew, who was brought to Boston to be the No. 5 hitter but has struggled in that role this season. In fact, it was another free-agent acquisition, shortstop Julio Lugo, who was demoted out of the leadoff spot earlier this week.
Francona went with Dustin Pedroia as his leadoff man on Tuesday, before going with Coco Crisp on Wednesday and Drew in the series finale.
The last time Drew led off?
"I couldn't tell you," Drew said. "I don't have any idea what the dates would have been."
The answer, unbeknownst to Drew, was on June 18, 2003. The Cardinals beat lefty Glendon Rusch and the Brewers, 9-1, that night, as Drew went 0-for-5 and scored a run.
Francona indicated that the move likely isn't permanent.
"You know what, facing [Jeff Francis] today, J.D.'s had some good at-bats against this guy," Francona said. "Besides the game in Arizona the other day, he's not been driving the ball a lot. But he'll give you a good at-bat. I just think, we hit him first, we hit Pedroia second ... gives us good on-base guys."
By putting Kevin Youkilis in the No. 5 slot, Francona is hoping David Ortiz (11 homers) and Manny Ramirez (eight homers) will start getting some meatier pitches.
"I don't know if we're able, at this point, especially with Interleague, to have one lineup over the next two weeks," Francona said. "I don't know if it's feasible. Obviously, we'd like to have some consistency. But this is something you may see from time to time, at least. We'll see."
In his typical laid-back nature, Drew didn't seem all that preoccupied by the switch. Francona approached him about it following Tuesday's game.
"It's just one of those situations where they're mixing things up a little bit, and [Francona] just wanted to check with me to make sure I didn't have any opposition to it," Drew said. "I don't think it will be a whole lot different. I'm always a guy who wants to go up there and see some pitches, and not be overly aggressive and get a pitch in my zone. I'll try to continue with that."
With a career on-base percentage of .390 and above average speed, Drew does offer some attributes as a leadoff hitter.
"[Francona] basically told me it's not going to be an everyday thing," said Drew. "He just wanted to throw it out there, and see if I'd be willing to do it and just see what happens with it. He thought it would be a good idea. He thought I go up there and see a lot of pitches. He just kind of wanted me to stick with my game plan, just in a different spot in the lineup."
Facing Bonds: Friday night will mark the first time Francona has had to manage against Barry Bonds since 2004, when the Red Sox lost two out of three in San Francisco. Bonds was 1-for-9 with four walks in that series.
Will the Red Sox look to walk Bonds intentionally when the opportunity presents itself? Francona wouldn't tip his hand on that one. However, with former A's manager Ken Macha sitting in on the press conference in his role as studio analyst for NESN, Francona recalled a situation both men remembered from 2003, when Francona was Macha's bench coach at Oakland.
"When we were in Oakland, we walked him to start the ninth. I talked you into it," said Francona, looking in Macha's direction.
"Did it work?" Macha shot back.
"Yeah, but I was scared," Francona said. "I was glad you were the manager. I think we were up by one run, and we walked him to start the inning. I remember when we were doing it, knowing it was the right thing to do and glad [Macha] had to do it."
Manny's power outage: How rare was it for Ramirez to enter Thursday's game with just eight home runs? Almost unprecedented, according to a telling graphic in the Boston Herald.
The eight homers Ramirez had on June 13 were tied for the fewest he's ever had at that date since breaking in as an everyday player in 1994. Ramirez also had eight homers on June 13, 1997.
Since joining the Red Sox in 2001, there's been just one other time Ramirez didn't have double-digit homers by this point in the season. That was 2002, when he broke his left index finger in May.
Dice-K vs. Bonds: For his second straight start, Daisuke Matsuzaka will have a marquee matchup. Last time out, he faced future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson. This time, he goes against Bonds for the first time.
"Like Randy Johnson, he's a big name," Matsuzaka said of Bonds. "I just hope it's a good matchup for the people watching. I'm not necessarily people should watch the matchup, but I just hope people will enjoy it."
On deck: Right-hander Julian Tavarez will kick off the three-game series against the Giants when he's opposed by ace left-hander Barry Zito. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less