BOSTON -- The Red Sox are pulling out all of the big guns for a four-game series with the Rays that kicked off at Fenway Park on Thursday.
Adrian Gonzalez (left calf tightness) and David Ortiz (back spasms) were both back in the lineup, though manager Terry Francona said if the Rays hadn't reduce the Red Sox's lead in the American League Wild Card race to just four games with 14 left to play, neither slugger would be playing.
"Probably not," Francona said. "I'm being real honest. ... But for me, these are important games.
"This is way better than last year, I'm telling you. This time last year, I think we were starting to talk about this year. That wasn't good. Right now, we're fighting our fannies off to try to continue to play. That's not the worst feeling in the world."
Gonzalez left Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays in the seventh inning with tightness in his left calf, but he felt fine Thursday.
Ortiz was a late scratch from Tuesday's starting lineup with spasms in his back and hasn't played since Sunday.
"He's still sore, but he's good enough to play," Francona said. "I think this time of year, they understand their responsibilities and we'll keep an eye on them. Both of them wouldn't play if they didn't think they could be productive, or we wouldn't let them play."
Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.