First off, here's the other half of the lineup tonight, the Oakland A's:
1. Shannon Stewart, LF
2. Daric Barton, 1B
3. Nick Swisher, CF
4. Jack Cust, RF
5. Mark Ellis, 2B
6. Dan Johnson, DH
7. Marco Scutaro, SS
8. Jack Hannahan, 3B
9. Kurt Suzuki, C
SP: Chad Gaudin, RHP
Also, as posted earlier, some guy named Manny is back in the lineup. But he probably won't be there all night. In his pregame session with the Lords of the Press Box, Terry Francona said he wanted to give Ramirez a couple at-bats and some time to get used to playing in the field. After that, Jacoby Ellsbury will enter.
"What weíll do is maybe play him part of a game and try to build up -- itís not so much the swinging, I donít think, as much as standing in the outfield and trying to go in directions that are not preconceived," Francona said. "So weíll see how that goes, whether itís two or three at-bats."
Manny is also playing in unfamiliar territory in the two-hole. Kevin Youkilis, tongue firmly planted in cheek, gave some hints on what we might see out of the left fielder as he returns from his oblique strain.
"Heís hitting second so I think heís going to move over runners," Youkilis said. "Heís going to do the little things. Heís going to play small ball. ... I think he might get a contract extension, maybe, if he finishes well. He really has to show himself now because heís one of those September call-up type guys youíre not sure about."
Youkilis was in high spirits because he, too, has good injury news. After getting a cortisone shot to his injured wrist Friday in Tampa, he is feeling better and will be in the lineup tomorrow night. He's also available to pinch hit tonight, according to Francona. The always-intense Youkilis was happy to be able to contribute once again.
"For me itís just going out on the field again and playing," Youkilis said. "I think Iíll be a lot happier camper getting to go out and play, being able to play and not being hurt. I think the worst thing in all of sports is to not be able to go out and play on a daily basis. Itís more pain than actually the pain youíre feeling in your body."
Lefthanded reliever Hideki Okajima wasn't pained as much as tired, which is why he hasn't pitched since Sept. 14. He threw a bullpen session of 40 pitches this afternoon and looked good, according to pitching coach John Farrell. Okajima will be available Thursday.
"There was some fatigue that we dealt with and much like other guys who need a little bit of a breather, this was his time," Farrell said. "Hopefully weíll get him one or two appearances before the regular season concludes and certainly weíll factor in health."
David Ortiz also spoke briefly about his own health. He'll have surgery on his right knee after the season, but said he's been feeling better and his numbers (.342 with 3 homers and 13 RBI in his past 10 games) have been solid.
"I got to get a surgery. I guess Iím going to feel 100 percent afterwards, but not for a wihle," Ortiz said. "Iíve got to deal with whatever. Iíve been swinging the bat OK. What do you think?"
One more thing, Francona spoke for a bit about Eric Gagne, who looked solid in two appearances in Tampa (combined 2.0 innings, 0 runs, 0 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts) after being a train wreck for most of his Boston tenure.
When asked what he has seen in those two appearances, Francona responded: "The ability to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes. And even if he didnít, he didnít go away form that. Sometimes he attacks with his off-speed. It sets up his fastball, rather than the other way around."
I shall return with in-game updates, once we get underway. First pitch is 7:05 p.m.