BOSTON -- One day after clinching the American League East division title, Red Sox manager John Farrell's lineup for Saturday's game against Toronto featured several significant changes.
Most notable was usual third baseman Will Middlebrooks penciled in to play first base, his first professional game at the position.
"Will has worked out at first base in early work at periodic times during the year," Farrell said. "He's a good athlete and we feel like he shouldn't be a fish out of water in this."
Farrell alluded to several other factors going into the decision, including Middlebrooks' strong career numbers (6-for-13) against Mark Buehrle, Toronto's Saturday starter. The move also gives Farrell a chance to see how Middlebrooks handles the position, something that could give the manager another option if a pinch running situation arises for primary first baseman Mike Napoli in the postseason.
"Anytime you move to a different position, it's going to take some repetition. Still, you're on a corner so there's similar reaction time that's going to be required there," Farrell explained. "But again, he's an infielder. That's required to do some things reactionary and that's going to be the same at first base."
Before taking batting practice, Middlebrooks spoke excitedly about the opportunity.
"I'll have fun with it. It's the best way to learn," he said before being surprised by his parents, Tom and Julie Middlebrooks, on the field (mom sporting a new hair style that Middlebrooks said led him to not recognize her initially).
In addition to Middlebrooks at first, shortstop Stephen Drew will bat leadoff for the first time this season. Outfielder Shane Victorino returned to the starting lineup batting second after appearing in Friday's division-clinching win as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning. Victorino missed two starts after exiting Wednesday night's game against the Baltimore Orioles with a jammed right thumb.
Here's the complete lineup for Saturday night's contest:
1. Stephen Drew, SS
2. Shane Victorino, CF
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Jonny Gomes, LF
5. Daniel Nava, RF
6. Will Middlebrooks 1B
7. Xander Bogaerts, 3B
8. David Ross, C
9. John McDonald, 2B
RHP -- Clay Buchholz
"He won't start a game until we get to Baltimore, so rather than going 10 days between starts he'll probably get an inning of work just to stay sharp."
* Farrell also offered an update on the status of outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who resumed baseball activities Friday.
"He ran today, he hit more off the tee, he threw. We're hopeful to get some BP in the cage tomorrow. He's making steady progress so we're hopeful that he'll be back in our lineup sometime this coming trip."