ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Dustin Pedroia is batting leadoff tonight for the first time since Oct. 3, 2009. Until Jacoby Ellsbury returns, it's a look the Red Sox could use often.
"In Jacoby’s absence, we felt like we needed a guy that would see a lot of pitches," manager John Farrell said. "I think it might help Shane [Victorino] in that 2-hole to see how pitchers are going to attack a righthanded hitter.
"It also gives us an opportunity to get David [Ortiz] to the plate in the first inning. There are a number of things that went into putting Pedey in the leadoff spot. Felt like this is a chance to get out top four or five hitters in the top half of the lineup."
Farrell said Pedroia suggested it and the two talked about the idea Monday.
“The one thing that we’ve really worked hard at is maintaining some continuity,” Farrell said. “If this is one [lineup] that gives us that continuity until Jacoby returns, we’re certainly willing to stay the course.”
Said Pedroia: "It's fine with me. I'm going to have the same approach."
In terms of replacing Ellsbury in center field, Farrell plans to give rookie Jackie Bradley Jr. playing time.
“Jackie’s going to be in the mix. But on certain matchups, we’ll take a look at the alignment we're using tonight. Jonny [Gomes] has good numbers against some righthanded starters, particularly in this series. We’re not locked in to any one thing. But the fortunate thing is we have depth and options.”
• Farrell on Stephen Drew playing against lefty David Price instead of Xander Bogaerts: “Coming off the off day, Stephen Drew has been one of our mainstays and certainly that’s going to remain.”
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who missed five games with a sore lower back last week, is back in the lineup for the second straight game and said he feels fine. But Farrell plans to judiciously use his catcher.
“He’s got one view and I’ve got another. He feels like he can go every day, which you love about him. I think it’s probably smart given what he dealt with that we don’t throw him out there every single day,” Farrell said. “He’s going to get the majority of the reps behind the plate. But I’m a little bit leery right there to run him out there three consecutive days.”
• The Red Sox have every Monday off through the end of the regular season and an extra day off on Sept. 26. Farrell plans to use his starters in order and not change the rotation much. “I think it’s important that we respect what guys have done and we stay as consistent with their routine as much as possible. They’re all going to have to pitch,” Farrell said. “I’m not looking to go away from what has been successful so far.”
• Farrell on tonight's starter, Clay Buchholz: "The next three weeks gives us an opportunity to build him to 100 pitches or more. I think realistically, just to maintain steady progress over the final there weeks is the ultimate goal here."
Watch how Buchholz throws his changeup and cutter tonight. Farrell said those two pitches will show how advanced Buchholz is after his long layoff.
• The team’s charter flight from LaGuardia Airport in New York on Sunday night was delayed for several hours by a mechanical issue and did not arrive in Florida until after midnight.
• Former Red Sox pitcher Derek Lowe, who retired earlier this season after a 17-year career, is working this series for NESN. Lowe lives in Fort Myers, Fla.
• Pedro Martinez is with the team on this road trip and in uniform before games. Farrell said it was just part of his schedule and that Martinez had no specific project he was working on. Don Zimmer, an adviser for the Rays, is here, too.
• In a bit of cheesy gamesmanship, the Rays did not play music on the public address system while the Red Sox took batting practice. The music started, literally, the second the Red Sox were finished.