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Francona shuffles Red Sox batting order

Posted by Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff  September 24, 2011 01:33 PM

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NEW YORK - The big news is the lineup.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona took suggestions from players and coaches and put together an interesting lineup that he hopes will ignite the Red Sox offense.

The key component is Carl Crawford going back to his familiar No. 2 spot in the order. What took so long? Crawford is all about comfort and he's rarely been in the spot where he spent most of his career in Tampa Bay.

That dropped Dustin Pedroia to third and Adrian Gonzalez down to fifth.

"We didn't swing the bat very well last night," kidded Francona about changing the lineup from yesterday's offday. "Spoke to Demarlo (Hale, bench coach) and some of the players and we felt it puts Carl in a position where he feels he can impact a little bit more. His on-base percentage isn't typically what you'd have someone in the two-hole, but we're in a smaller sample size now and we have some righthanders coming up.

"We want him (Crawford) to be aggressive on the bases," Francona said.

Francona said he received interesting suggestions from players including Pedroia.

"I asked for their opinions. I think it's the right thing to do. It lengthens that lineup out a bit and this is a good way to do it," Francona said.

Francona was asked about dropping Gonzalez, a significant hitter, to fifth. He said
"There's give and take. I don't think it's going to affect him. We did that with Pedey the other day and I wasn't comfortable with that too. I just think the positives outweigh the negatives."

Big topic is third baseman Kevin Youkilis. Will his painful sports hernia allow him to contribute in the playoffs?

"He's willing to try anything we ask him to do," Francona said "He's going to grind through to see where it leads. Don't know if he can pinch hit, or play, or can he rebound? So we'll give him a couple of days and see where it leads. That's all we can do."

On the amount of work he's done on the playoff roster, Francona said, "Zero. I can't do it. Probably should. Talking to Allard (Baird) about that this morning and I can't bring myself to do that yet."

Francona announced the pitchers vs. Baltimore as Josh Beckett on Monday, Erik Bedard on Tuesday and TBA on Wednesday.

Would the Sox use it as a bullpen day with Clay Buchholz starting and pitching a couple of innings? Intriguing.

Francona said Dan Wheeler is throwing and increasing the intensity, but that he's not ready to pitch in a game yet with a forearm strain.

Francona on his own style: "When I got let go in Philadelphia, I told myself that if I ever got another chance I'd be true to myself. Whether people agree with me or not, that's the way I feel about it and that's important for me."

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