But knowing how much pain Lowell is enduring to play, and also wanting to make sure the third baseman can start Game 3 in Boston on Sunday against Angels lefty Joe Saunders, Francona took emotion out of it and did what he thought was best for the team.
"I kept looking at it and looking at it, and I thought, 'This is where we need to arrive,'" said Francona. "But getting there was hard. Under a lot of circumstances, you just throw Mikey Lowell out there because of who he is. I thought in this case I needed to kind of step in and be the manager. That was a hard one for me. I guess I always try to arrive at the right decision. Some decisions are harder, though, than others. That was a hard one."
Lowell has been playing with a partial tear of the labrum in his right hip, and Wednesday's Game 1 was just his second start since Sept. 16.
Red Sox's lineup
|Red Sox manager Terry Francona shuffled his lineup for Game 2 on Friday night.|
Francona moved first baseman Kevin Youkilis across the diamond to fill Lowell's spot. Mark Kotsay came off the bench and started at first base. The lefty came in with a .389 lifetime average (7-for-18) against Game 2 starter Ervin Santana.
"It made it easier, but that's not all why we did it," Francona said. "It's not like I'm ever trying to get Lowell out of the lineup. That would be incorrect, because I don't ever feel like that. This guy is too much a part of what we're doing. I know he's hurting. We're not going to do this every game either. I just think it was the right thing to do tonight."
There was one more infield maneuver as well, as veteran utilityman Alex Cora played shortstop in place of rookie Jed Lowrie, who made an error in Game 1 and has struggled with the bat in recent weeks.
Lowrie, the switch-hitter who has performed far better from the right side this season, will be back in there in Game 3 against Saunders.
As always, Francona displayed no lack of confidence in Cora, who came in 2-for-3 lifetime against Santana, with a double and a triple.
"AC is very reassuring for a guy that comes off the bench," Francona said. "The ball is going to end up where it's supposed to. Being an extra player, there are times he goes through periods where he doesn't get enough at-bats to stay sharp, and I understand that part of it. This game tonight won't be too fast for him."
For Cora, it was his first start in postseason play since the 2004 National League DS, when he was with the Dodgers. Since arriving in Boston in 2005, Cora has played in five postseason games, but didn't get an at-bat.
The Red Sox entered Friday's game holding a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series after recording a 4-1 victory in Game 1 on Wednesday night.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.