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Change at the top

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  April 11, 2006 12:27 PM

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With Coco Crisp's fractured left index finger keeping him out of the lineup for the foreseeable future, Red Sox manager Terry Francona said that Kevin Youkilis will be the Sox primary leadoff hitter. Youkilis is batting leadoff today in the home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays.

"I don't want to disrupt [batters] 2, 3, or 4, and Youk is a good on-base guy, which we value," said Francona. "We can change it up sometimes, which we might, but we don't want to ask too much of [Adam] Stern and make it unfair for him."

Francona said that Stern -- and possibly Trot Nixon -- would also see time in the leadoff spot as well.

"I really like the idea of Trot hitting behind Manny," said Francona. "You don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul. Again we're not looking at two months here. We're looking at a matter of weeks [with Coco]. I think that in a lot of situations Youkilis is a good candidate just because of the quality of his at-bats."

  • In other news, the Sox recalled veteran outfielder Dustin Mohr from Pawtucket with Crisp injured (the team put him on the DL today). Francona indicated that Mohr was chosen over veteran Willie Harris, who was also playing at Pawtucket, because Mohr is a right-handed batter. "We would have gotten repetitive a bit with Willie. ... That would have given us three left-hand hitters," said Francona. "Somebody was going to have to play against a lefty. This way we can always do what we want."

  • Although Wily Mo Pena has experience playing center field, Francona said Mohr would likely see time in center. The Sox seem uncertain of Pena's ability in center and are wary of moving him there before he becomes comfortable playing right field at Fenway.

  • Francona offered no real update on Coco Crisp's condition. "He's 10 days in a splint and we'll go from there," said the Sox manager.

  • A lot of pregame talk focused on Stern and his ability to handle an increased role in Crisp's absence. Francona thinks Stern has a lot of upside, but doesn't want to overload the young Canadian outfielder. "He has the ability to be an everyday major league player, that's part of the reason we want him to play so much," said Francona. "We don't want to shortchange him because by shortchanging him it would shortchange us."

    Francona added, "He really hasn't [played much] yet. We can't sit here and say he's going to be a .300 hitter in the major leagues. He needs to play everyday and that's probably not going to happen here in the long-term. That's why we want him to desperately play everyday because there's so much there. He runs; he throws; he's conscientious; he's got a chance to hit; he's got a chance to hit some home runs. So we want to give that the best chance to come to fruition."

  • Reliever Julian Tavarez, who is serving a 10-day suspension for punching Tampa Bay Devil Rays outfielder Joey Gathright in the face during a spring training game, will be activated on Thursday, said Francona. Francona said that Tavarez threw 25 pitches today just to stay sharp. He also said that he won't baby Tavarez. If the Sox need him right away, he'll put him in a game, regardless of the situation.

  • Keith Foulke appears to have accepted his diminished role in the bullpen. "You get a guy that's accomplished what he's accomplished -- you get in the major leagues as a so-called closer -- and he's willing to pitch whenever we ask him to pitch," said Francona. "And because of that there are going to be times where our bullpen sets up better with Keith throwing like he did [against Baltimore on Sunday]. We could have flip-flopped those guys and we probably still win, but we had them facing guys that they match up so much better with that it just makes sense. But so often in this game you can't get guys to understand that. It gives us an advantage."

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