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Papi has no problems manning first base

Papi has no problems manning first base

Papi has no problems manning first base
PHILADELPHIA -- It was the lineup that had been contemplated for days, and finally posted by manager Terry Francona for Wednesday night's game against the Phillies.

For the first time in a year, David Ortiz started at first base for the Red Sox. For the first time since 2005 -- and just the second time in his career -- Adrian Gonzalez started in right field.

As it turns out, neither move factored much at all in a game the Red Sox lost, 2-1.

Ortiz went 0-for-4 while making 11 putouts at first and fielding the one grounder that was hit to him. Gonzalez didn't get any action in right, his biggest workout coming when he jumped against the wall on a Chase Utley triple in the eighth.

"To be honest with you, I was just thinking about defending myself out there," Ortiz said. "You've got tons of lefties coming to hit, so you don't want to get caught into a rocket hit right at you if you're thinking about hitting."

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While Ortiz has played first base during the Interleague portion of the schedule during every season except 2008, when he was on the 15-day disabled list, going to right field wasn't quite as seamless for Gonzalez.

"Again, it's not something where I'm going to try to make an outstanding play," said Gonzalez before the game. "I'm just going to catch the balls that are hit to me and keep the basehits in front of me and make sure I hit my cutoff."

Aside from that one game for the Rangers in 2005, Gonzalez's only experience in the outfield was a few games in Little League and some winter ball games, also in '05.

"I don't think many people crash into walls and dive after balls unless the opportunity calls for it," Gonzalez said. "I'm just going to play the game. I think there's a lot of people that switch positions all the time and nobody makes a big deal out of it. It's just for a couple of days so Papi can get in the game."

Don't expect to see the alignment again on Thursday. Ortiz was informed by bench coach DeMarlo Hale he will be on the bench for the series finale, while Gonzalez will return to first base.

Francona was non-committal when asked if the Ortiz-Gonzalez combo would happen again during the road trip, which concludes Sunday in Houston.

In fact, Francona openly struggled with the decision for a few days before finally giving it the green light on Wednesday.

"Yeah, when we went into Pittsburgh, my concern for David was going from the day we left to the day we got back and not having him get at-bats," Francona said. "That really worried me, because I thought it would set him back. He [pinch-hit] in all three games in Pittsburgh, so, OK, that was good. Now we had the day off, we had the lefty last night, tonight was kind of the obvious night to do it, kind of right in the middle.

"I think Gonzi has had enough time to go out there and shag some balls. David's taken grounders. Also, to be honest with you, we wanted to talk to the coaches, talk to [general manager] Theo [Epstein], because it's not perfect. It can't be. Not playing David is not perfect. The defensive alignment we have out there is not perfect either, but I trust Gonzi.

"I think he's pretty mature about this. He's not going to be gung ho and try to be Ichiro [Suzuki] and jump over the wall."

Francona and Epstein had spoken at length about the decision not just in Philadelphia, but in the days leading up to the road trip.

"I think that was a tough call," Epstein said. "There are strong arguments on both sides. In the end, it's something we're all on the same page about, that it's worth trying. Adrian has given the adequate assurances he won't exert himself too much out there -- running, throwing, up against the wall. It's tough the way the schedule broke this year. David is a big part of the team, so finding a way to get him a start makes sense. We'll see how it goes. The important thing is it's something that, after a lot of discussion, everyone is on the same page about."

This is the first time since 2002 the Red Sox have played nine straight games in NL cities.

While the addition of Ortiz can do a lot to strengthen the firepower of a team that has scored just 10 runs in the first five games of the road trip, the defense is obviously not as strong when he plays in the NL parks, and Gonzalez goes to the outfield.

"It will be good offensively, but [darn], I'm going to have to play second, first and right," quipped second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "I've got small legs. That's a lot of ground. I'm going to have to talk to Tito."

It turned out to be a non-issue.

"They did fine," Pedroia said. "There wasn't too much action. [John Lackey] pitched great. It stinks that we didn't give him some support. I wish he could have hit a couple more times. He looked good up there. We'll come out tomorrow and play hard."

By subtracting Ortiz and the injured Carl Crawford out of the lineup, Boston's starting nine hasn't seemed quite as imposing. Josh Reddick started in left field on Wednesday. J.D. Drew, who has been dealing with a bruised left eye, was not in the lineup. Drew could return Thursday.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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