Bates' father, Mark, passed away from a heart attack in 2004, never seeing his son play in a professional game. The void was on the mind of Bates, who said he thought of his dad during Monday's national anthem.
Memories of his former Little League coach and mentor are never far from Bates. The 25-year-old wrote the initials "MLB" on the brim of his cap before Monday's game, but the acronym had nothing to do with Major League Baseball.
For Bates, those letters hold a deeper meaning. They stand for Mark Lloyd Bates.
"I was very close to him," said Bates, a third-round selection out of North Carolina State in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. "[Monday] night was special because of that. We'd always talk after games. He enjoyed watching me play.
"I was fortunate for 20 years to have a dad as good as him. That's the way I look at it. I know he was with me [Monday] night."
Once the game started, Bates did his best to ward off the nerves that normally accompany a big league debut. But it was to no avail.
"He was nervous," manager Terry Francona said. "It was kind of what you expect. I think his heart was pounding a little bit."
Bates struck out twice in three at-bats, but the California native was back in Francona's lineup on Tuesday against the Athletics. He finished 0-for-3 with a walk.
The rookie figures to split first base duties with Mark Kotsay for the remainder of the week, as the banged up Red Sox limp their way into the break. Boston wraps up its three-game series against Oakland on Wednesday in Tim Wakefield's first start as an All-Star.
In contrast, accolades are the furthest thing from Bates' mind these days. The well-traveled prospect finds himself in the Major Leagues less than a month after playing in Double-A Portland.
"It's been a little bit of a winding road," Bates said. "But it's good to be here."
BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (10-3, 4.30 ERA)
Wakefield's record-breaking 383rd start as a member of the Red Sox last Friday certainly wasn't his most memorable. Despite logging eight innings against the Mariners at Fenway Park, the 42-year-old knuckleballer was tagged for five runs on 10 hits. In 38 lifetime appearances against the A's, Wakefield is 10-6 with a 4.07 ERA. The first-time All-Star pitched arguably his best game of the season April 15 in Oakland, allowing two runs on four hits in a complete-game victory.
OAK: RHP Trevor Cahill (5-7, 4.55 ERA)
Cahill was roughed up for the second straight outing in a 15-3 loss to the Indians last Friday. The right-hander couldn't throw strikes and, as a result, a Cleveland team that had lost five straight hit him hard. Cahill went 3 2/3 innings, allowing eight runs (five earned) on six hits with four walks and two strikeouts. Just 50 of his 95 pitches were thrown for strikes. The only positive for Cahill was that he missed down in the zone, unlike in his previous start against the Rockies, when he served up four home runs. Cahill has never faced the Red Sox.
Red Sox starters are 4-2 with a 2.94 ERA and 49 strikeouts in their past 11 games, a stretch that began June 26. ... Boston has reached the 50-win mark before the All-Star break in four straight seasons. ... Pitchers Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are the first pair of Sox hurlers to rack up at least 100 strikeouts before the break since Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling in 2004.
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Thursday: Red Sox (Brad Penny, 6-3, 4.67) vs. Royals (Luke Hochevar, 4-3, 5.08), 7:10 p.m. ET
Friday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 7-6, 4.16) vs. Royals (Brian Bannister, 6-6, 3.87), 7:10 p.m. ET
Saturday: Red Sox (John Smoltz, 0-2, 6.60) vs. Royals (Gil Meche, 4-8, 4.14), 7:10 p.m. ET