ST. LOUIS -- The Red Sox don't have much choice in the matter: for Game 3 of the World Series -- and the next two games as well, for that matter -- they have to pick and choose.
Thanks to the National League rules in play for the next three games, no DH will be allowed. That means the Sox have to choose between their usual DH, David Ortiz, and their starting first baseman, Mike Napoli.
They can have one, but not the other.
It's not exactly a slam dunk for the Sox, for while Ortiz has a well-deserved reputation for being a terrific post-season performer and has hit two homers (and very nearly a third) in the first two World Series games, Napoli has come through often in the post-season, too.
Napoli finished second in homers and RBI on the Sox during the season and singlehanded won Game 3 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers when he launched a homer off Justin Verlander, the only run of the game.
Additionally, Napoli is clearly the better defender between the two.
But for Game 3 at least, the Sox are going with Ortiz, who played six games at first during road interleague games during the season.
"Not just when we get into settings like (Saturday),'' said John Farrell, "but when we've done interleague play, we've tried to find as many opportunities for David at first as we did through those ten road games in National League parks. David will be in the lineup (Saturday) on first base.
"How we go forward through the remaining three games, we'll take a look at that day to day. But given the right-handed matchups, and take away the matchups, David has got a long career that we all lean on and the success that he's having on this postseason to take advantage of.''
Ortiz was philosophical about the assignment.
"You only can play eight hitters in the National League,'' said Ortiz, "and I guess John wants me to be in the lineup (Saturday). What can I say? 'No, I'm not going to play because I've got to play first base. Whatever they need me for, whatever they need me for. We'll see how the situation goes and I'll see how it feels.''
The defensive responsibilites won't impact Ortiz's routine much. Even when he serves as DH during the season, Ortiz usually doesn't swing between at-bats. About the only concession he'll have to make is less time to look at video of his at-bats -- past and present -- between plate appearances.
"I DH every day pretty much,'' he said, "but that doesn't mean I just come to the field and sit around and wait for game time. I've got to do my thing. I've got put my work in. You've got to be ready. I know playing first base is different because you have to be doing different things. But it's the end of the season, pretty much, and your body is used to everything.''
During the season, Farrell never asked Ortiz to play three straight games at first, often mixing Napoli into at least one game per series. Only once, in fact, in the second-to-last road series of the season, did Ortiz play two games in a row at first. It's unclear if Ortiz will be asked to play in each game in St. Louis, but if that's the case, he's ready to handle the workload.
"If it comes down to this situation right here, you deal with whatever,'' said Ortiz, "because after this is, it's a long vacation. Right now, I'm just trying to get all set and try to help this ballclub do whatever.''
If picking between Ortiz and Napoli lessens the Red Sox starting lineup, Farrell can at least take some solace in the fact that Napoli, Jonny Gomes (out of the lineup in favor of Daniel Nava) and Mike Carp give him a deep and talented bench.
And that counts for something in the N.L. when teams have to use late-inning pinch-hitters for their pitchers, as well as executing double switches during pitching changes.
"There's no question our bench is going to be more involved in these next three games, agreed Farrell. "It's one of the reasons why I think we've achieved the success we have throughout the course of the year. We haven't had to use it as much with the number of days off and strictly American League rules. But even if we have to defend for David late with Mike Napoli, we've got much more flexibility, obviously, with an added guy on the bench.''