Red Sox ponder lineup dilemma

The Baltimore Sun

BOSTON -- With baseball's second-largest payroll and a roster filled with veteran All-Stars and top prospects, Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona's job often has more to do with handling diverse personalities and intense media scrutiny than juggling lineups.

This week, though, Francona might be facing his biggest roster challenge: what to do at first and third base in the next three games.

As the World Series switches to Denver and National League rules, the Red Sox will not be able to use a designated hitter, and that means the club's most intimidating hitter, David Ortiz, will either have to play the field or ride the bench.

In 2004, the last time the Red Sox were in the World Series, Ortiz played first base in St. Louis. But Ortiz has a balky knee, and the Red Sox's regular first baseman, Kevin Youkilis, has hit over .400 with four homers in his first 11 postseason games.

Youkilis could be moved from first to his original position at third, but then the Sox couldn't start Mike Lowell, arguably the team's best all-around player.

"When it really comes down to the reality of it, two out of the three play," Francona said. "And it's really disappointing because we like when all three of them play. They've all been mainstays in our lineup."

Francona won't show his hand, hinting he still isn't sure what he is going to do. But he has said Ortiz's health will factor into the decision.

Ortiz hasn't played more than 40 games at first base in the regular season since 2003. Youkilis hasn't played that many at third base since 2004. Lowell has played all but nine games in his career at third base. Something has to give.

"Whatever happens, all three of us are going to be rooting for our teammates to win, no matter what the case," Lowell said. "We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

Rodrigo sighting

Former Orioles pitcher Rodrigo Lopez, who started 14 games for the Rockies this year, is in an unfamiliar position this week. Instead of in uniform, he's in suit and tie, working as a color analyst for a Mexican television network.

It's the first TV gig for Lopez, who had Tommy John surgery in August after going 5-4 with the Rockies. He'll be a free agent this winter and hopes to pitch in the major leagues by next July.

As a broadcaster, Lopez said he'll be as objective as possible, but the fans and his bosses know "of course I'll be rooting for the Rockies."

After Game 1, he said the only feedback he received on his performance was from his family. "They said I sounded real good," he said with a smile.

Boston's impact

According to Fox Sports, Game 1 of this year's World Series drew 16.9 million viewers, more than 4 million more than Game 1 in 2006 drew.

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