Trot Nixon is back.
The Red Sox right fielder, who connected on a pinch-hit home run Tuesday night, had doubles in his first two at-bats last night as the Red Sox beat the Devil Rays, 8-6, in a grinder of a game at Fenway Park. More important, his troublesome left quadriceps, which has put him on the disabled list twice this season, feels "great."
Nixon, making his second start since returning from the disabled list Sept. 7, played seven innings, and was the last player out of the trainer's room, emerging dripping from the cold tub.
"I had to sit in the cold water," he said. "I don't want to blame the outfield, but it's soft out there, and I got body sore. But my quad felt great tonight. I thought it would go well, and my legs felt great. Running to second base and testing everything else I had to do was A-OK.
"It was a great feeling. I was glad to make a positive contribution. I could have played more, but there's a plan. I'll probably just pinch hit [today], then go into Yankee Stadium Friday."
Nixon, who opened the year on the DL with a herniated disk and then suffered the quad strain while rehabbing, is batting .288, with 4 homers and 15 RBIs in 36 games. Last night, he tagged Tampa Bay hurler Dewon Brazelton for two doubles -- in the second and fourth innings.
"I got a little Wall ball with the first one," he said. "It wouldn't have been a double in another park. Sometimes, you have to play the dimensions here. But it's good to stay down and drive the ball. I feel good, and I'm seeing the ball well. I'm more confident. The most important thing you can have as a hitter is confidence, and I've got that right now. When your body feels good, you have confidence."
Kevin Millar, who helped the cause with a homer over everything in left in the fifth, knows how important Nixon is to the club.
"Trot's been phenomenal," said Millar. "It's great that he's back. You get a lefthanded hitter like that, a guy who hits 30 home runs, it makes us that much tougher."
Manager Terry Francona sees good things ahead.
"[Nixon] feels good about himself, so we've got to keep him healthy," said Francona. "We need to keep him strong, and, hopefully, his bat will really help us. When we went to spring training, he was one of our big guns and we haven't had him available a lot. Sometimes a hitter takes a swing or two and just gets a bit locked in. We'll take it."
Nixon seemed more fluid last night, than when he first came off the DL. He motored into second base on both doubles with a seemingly effortless stride. He scored after both hits, and hit a hard grounder in the seventh that went right through shortstop Julio Lugo, who was charged with an error. On the play, Millar, who had doubled, scored. There was no RBI for Nixon, but the solid contact pleased Nixon. And if he is really healthy, the Red Sox will be, too.