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Pregame: Red Sox vs. A's

Posted by Ben Collins, Today's Soundtrack  July 7, 2009 05:12 PM

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Dustin Pedroia will return to the lineup tonight after missing last night's loss to tend to his wife, Kelli, who went into labor seven months into her pregnancy. Doctors were able to slow the labor process and stabilize her.

“He needed to not be here last night,” said manager Terry Francona. “He was torn, but, in the end, he decided he needed to be with Kelli.”

Francona said that some of Pedroia’s family arrived today to be with his wife during tonight's game.

“He’s a phone call away and, if he needs to leave, he can do that,” said Francona.

The Sox manager has made it an unwritten team policy to encourage players to tend to their wives when needed at the end of a pregnancy.

And it’s for good reason – Francona is still taking lighthearted heat from his wife, Jacque, for missing the birth of his first daughter, Alyssa.

“When I was playing, I missed one of my kid’s births and I’m still paying for it 22 years later,” said Francona. "I remember we were playing Cincinnati and my manager said that since I had an offday tomorrow, I had to wait until tomorrow.”

Francona said he made it to the hospital six or seven minutes before the birth of his son Nick and that he was “just really lucky” to have made it.

“That’s just the way it was back then,” he said. “If one of those players goes through this, I want them to be with their wife.”

Pedroia expressed gratitude to Francona for the night off. But to Francona, this is the most important part of his job.

“I’d like to think my job is more than just putting on a hit and run,” he said.

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Francona said Mark Kotsay’s right calf injury is feeling better but Aaron Bates will make his second career start at second base tonight as a precaution.

“I just don’t want to take the risk and mess it up,” said Francona.

Bates was 0 for 3 with two strikeouts in his major league debut last night. Francona said Bates was markedly jittery and a little scared.

“His heart was pounding a little bit and I think that got to him,” he said.

Francona said he tried to jokingly “get on him a little bit in the dugout,” but Bates, infinitely nervous, took it seriously.

“I told him I was kidding around but he was still dazed,” said Francona. “Maybe I shouldn’t have done that.”

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J.D. Drew will remain in the leadoff spot despite a lagging offense and calls for Jacoby Ellsbury to return to his everyday slot at the top of the order. Although Ellsbury’s batting average .299 and Drew sits at .260, Francona points to Drew’s .393 on-base percentage as the reason he’s at the top of the order. Ellsbury has a .347 OBP.

“We need the good hitters to get a chance to hit as much as they can,” Francona said. “And we need guys that get on base to get a chance to get on base as much as they can.”

The other case Ellsbury proponents present is his speed. Ellsbury is second in the majors with 35 stolen bases. Drew has just two.

“Sometimes a stolen base at the top of the order can be overrated,” said Francona. “I’m not saying this is the case here, but when you have Youkilis and Bay driving in runs, sometimes those stolen bases at the bottom of the order can be more useful.”

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