BOSTON — As has been well-documented, the Red Sox have tried any number of solutions at third base this season, with eight different players getting starts at the position.
Travis Shaw has the most starts of anyone, with 99. But with three games left in the season, it's become apparent that Brock Holt is being viewed as the likely starter in the post-season.
Holt started all three games in the recent series in New York and was the starter Friday night against Toronto, too.
"You look at the consistent quality to the at-bats," said John Farrell, "and they've been there for him. That's not to say the other guys aren't important to us. But this is the time of year where you're looking to put the best, current lineup on the field and his versatility has shown up a number of ways. He's a confident defender at third base and his skill set is a little bit different from the other guys.
"So against righthanded pitching, that could be the guy we're going with."
Holt came into Friday hitting .319 (22-for-69) in the last 24 games.
Shaw, meanwhile, has been streaky to a fault. In the second half of the season, Shaw has posted a slash line of .195/.260/.362.
"We've seen (the streakiness both ways) in short spurts," Farrell said. "He does have the ability to carry us. But we're trying to get there and we're at a point in the year where every game is meaningful. That's not to say you turn your back on what he did earlier in the season. But we're looking for sparks somewhere."
What's more, Farrell had Holt hitting second in the lineup, in an effort to produce more offense. The Sox were limited to just eight runs in the three-game series at Yankee Stadium, and over the last 11 games, scored more than five runs just once.
Holt hit second, with Xander Bogaerts dropped to sixth.
"This is to create a little bit of a spark for us offensively," explained Farrell. "We've been grinding a little bit. And also, (we want) to create a little more (left-right) balance up and down the lineup."
TIME TO PLAY
As the final few regular season games of his career wind down, David Ortiz acknowledged that it's becoming increasing difficult to focus on the games with all the tributes and ceremonies going on.
In the final 11 days of the season, Ortiz will have had five pre-game ceremonies held in his honor -- and it would have been six had not Ortiz asked the Tampa Bay Rays to cancel the ceremony they had planned in the aftermath of the death that morning of pitcher Jose Fernandez.
On Thursday night, Ortiz has his family on the field for a pre-game celebration hosted by the New York Yankees.
Minutes later, he had to step in to the batter's box against CC Sabathia. Sometimes, it's hard to flip that switch and be emotionally ready to compete.
"I'm not going to lie to you -- it has (gotten harder)," said Ortiz. "We're already in the playoffs, so for the next three days, I don't really have to worry about it. But the best thing about it is that once we get into the playoffs, there's not going to be all these distractions.
"I like to mentally focus when we play, especially when I'm playing for a reason. We work extremely hard during the regular season to get into the playoffs and once we get there, I don't want to blow that off. It's not easy to (do all the ceremonies) and play baseball at the same time. It can be a distraction."
The A.L. East-champion Red Sox, still fighting for playoff position, field their usual lineup as they open David Ortiz's final regular-season series tonight (7:10) against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox (92-67) are two games behind the Texas Rangers (94-65) in the race for the best record in the A.L., with the Cleveland Indians (91-67) a half-game behind Boston.
Rick Porcello (22-4, 3.11 ERA), the likely Game 1 starter in the ALDS, will try to add to his Cy Young Award resume tonight. He’ll be opposed by right-hander Marco Estrada (9-9, 3.53).
The Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles (both 87-72) are tied for the A.L. wild-card lead with the Detroit Tigers (85-73) 1 1/2 games back.
It’s the final regular season series for Oritz, with ceremonies planned to honor the retiring Red Sox DH prior to each of the final three game this weekend.
Dustin Pedroia 2B
Brock Holt 3B
Mookie Betts RF
David Ortiz DH
Hanely Ramirez 1B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Jackie Bradley CF
Sandy Leon C
Andrew Benintendi LF
Rick Porcello P
Eziquiel Carrera LF
Josh Donaldson 3B
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Jose Bautista RF
Russell Martin C
Troy Tulowitzki SS
Justin Smoak 1B
Kevin Pillar CF
Devon Travis 2B
Marco Estrada RHP