DETROIT -- With his team struggling to score runs in the American League Championship Series, Red Sox manager John Farrell made a switch for Game 5 on Thursday, inserting top prospect Xander Bogaerts at third base.
It will be the first career postseason start for the 21-year-old Bogaerts, who hit an opposite-field double to right field in the ninth inning of Game 4.
Will Middlebrooks, who had an inconsistent regular season (.227, .696 OPS) and has endured a tough postseason (.174, one RBI), will be on the bench.
"Well, as we talked about last night, the need for more offensive production on the left side of the infield," said Farrell. "And the one thing that Xander has shown in the brief opportunities that he has had is a consistent approach. It's time to throw him into the fire."
Bogaerts becomes the youngest player to start in an ALCS since Claudell Washington in 1974.
Ever since being promoted to the Majors on Aug. 19, Bogaerts has impressed his teammates with his maturity.
"He's not scared," said first baseman Mike Napoli. "He enjoys playing baseball. I watch him take BP every day. He works hard taking ground balls, he's been ready. He's had good ABs. We're looking forward to seeing him out there tonight."
In Boston's clinching Game 4 win in the AL Division Series over the Rays at Tropicana Field, Bogaerts started the go-ahead rally by drawing a walk before scoring the tying run. Then in the ninth inning, he again walked and scored an insurance run.
Bogaerts came up as a shortstop but got some playing time at third base after his callup in late August. In the regular season, he hit .250 with a homer and five RBIs in 44 at-bats.
To some, this lineup change might feel reminiscent of the one former Red Sox manager Terry Francona made in the 2007 ALCS vs. the Indians. At the time, Coco Crisp was struggling mightily and Francona inserted prospect Jacoby Ellsbury. That switch was made in Game 6, and the Red Sox won their last six games of that postseason, winning the World Series.
However, this circumstance isn't necessarily the same.
"We'll see how we go," Farrell said. "To me, it's going to take everybody on our team to advance. That doesn't mean that Will won't appear somewhere else in these final three games. Like I said, I think it's going to take contributions from everybody on this team."
Farrell, who has had a revolving door in left field in this postseason, went back to Jonny Gomes in left field after starting Daniel Nava in Game 4.
The Red Sox are 4-0 in this postseason when Gomes starts, and 1-3 with Nava.
"Again, even against very difficult right-handers, he's put up good at-bats," said Farrell. "It shouldn't be seen as a slight to Daniel in any way, but I just feel like we present differently when he's in the lineup versus coming off the bench."
David Ross, who caught Jon Lester in Game 1, will again be his batterymate in Game 5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia caught the previous three games.
"It is a balance," Farrell said. "I'd outlined to Salty before the series started what the first five games were going to look like. He wants to play. There's no question. A couple of base hits last night doesn't make today's decision easier.
"But the way that Jon and Rossy have teamed up, there's a lot of value in that. What we've seen is starting pitching is key in this series. I'm not saying Jon wouldn't be effective with Salty behind the plate, but that's been a good thing for a while now."