Extra Bases

About tonight’s lineup

The Red Sox anticipate their plane will land in New York at about 4:30 a.m. Friday. “It would have been really nice to play a nice day game today,” manager Terry Francona said.

But since the schedule makers didn’t comply, Francona gave nights off to Kevin Youkilis and J.D. Drew, inserting Casey Kotchman and Josh Reddick. Also, Friday starter Jon Lester left the clubhouse at about 4:30 this afternoon to fly to New York ahead of the team.

Since Youkilis returned from the his bout with back spasms last Friday, he has gone 3 for 26 with four walks, four strikeouts, and no extra base hits. Francona does not believe there is any correlation between the back problem and his performance since returinng, and the night off comes only for the purposes of getting him a night off before the late travel.

“No, I think he’s doing fine,” Francona said. “I haven’t even thought about it. I think some of that has to do with [Zack] Greinke and things like that.”

Youkilis’s night off gives Casey Kotchman a rare start. Francona has struggled to find Kotchman the at-bats he wants to give him. He wants to keep Kotchman fresh to enhance his ability as a pinch-hitter, which is currently the role he finds himself in after playing every day for much of his career.

When the Red Sox acquired Kotchman in a trade for Adam LaRoche, the made the move in part because they believed Kotchman had better potential as a pinch hitter. LaRoche — who is murdering the ball in Atlanta — had power but a big swing that might not translate to pinch hitting.

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“I don’t know if we saw him pinch hitting,” Francona said. “I think if Kotch has to pinch hit, he can get to a fastball.”

Kotchman is batting .222 with a .302 slugging percentage with four walks in 63 at-bats since he joined the Red Sox.

“I think he’s been as professional as you can be,” Francona said. “That’s been one of my biggest concerns since we’ve got him, the inability to get him enough at-bats. I don’t have all the answers to rectify it. But I think he’s a really valuable member of our team, and he’s used to playing more than he’s played. I wish we could play sometimes 10 guys.”

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