For the third straight game, Red Sox manager John Farrell Wednesday night held the struggling Mike Napoli out of the lineup, going with David Ortiz at first base for the second time in three games.
With Napoli stuck in a 2-for-27 slump — and moreover slogging through what’s been a trying season — Farrell said he wanted to put the best lineup on the field. But he also said the decision isn’t an indictment of Napoli.
“I think it’s important to note that we’re not turning from Mike,” Farrell said. “Nap has been big in some stretches of time here — and some prolonged stretches.
“Right now, he’s on the other side of that. He’s working and doing what he can to get through it . . . But right now the focus is day-to-day of what is tonight’s best chance for us to score runs and be on the right side of the scoreboard.”
Farrell said he wants to get Napoli back in the lineup in the final three games before the All-Star break. But, with both the lowest batting average (.195) and slugging percentage (.328) in the majors at first base this season, the Sox are looking for production from the position.
Travis Shaw’s three-hit night against the Marlins Tuesday might’ve given Farrell a reason to keep Shaw in the lineup again on Wednesday, but Farrell said his plan all along was to go with Ortiz again at first, plug Hanley Ramirez in as DH, and play Alejandro De Aza in left field to get him at-bats.
“He had a very good night,” Farrell said of Shaw. “But this was, at least in my mind, pre-planned to get David back at first base with Alejandro in left field.”
In two of the Sox’ previous three games, De Aza had only seen time as a late-inning defensive replacement, going 1 for 3 with a walk.
He’s been one of the team’s hottest hitters in recent weeks, hitting .375 with three homers and 13 RBIs since June 24.
“I felt like he’s certainly earned [playing time] and has contributed when he’s been on the field and wanted to get him at least four at-bats before the off day,” Farrell said.
Pedroia return close
The first day Dustin Pedroia is eligible to come off the disabled list is Friday, but Farrell wouldn’t say for sure that the second baseman would be in the lineup for the series opener against the Yankees.
“It’ll probably be day to day, our decision-making as we get past Friday,” Farrell said. “So the work continues to increase, the volume, the intensity, all baseball-related stuff. Pedey’s responded each day physically well from that. But he’s going to be on the field when he’s first ready, without any undue risk.”
Pedroia’s missed 13 games since going on the DL with a right hamstring strain June 25.
“What I don’t want to say is it’s going to be Friday, then all of a sudden for a reason or another [he can’t play],” Farrell said. “Basically, the best way to describe it is he’s going to be on the field as soon as he’s ready.”
Buchholz in rhythm
In recent years, Farrell used the All-Star break as an opportunity to give one of his pitchers extra rest. He gave days off to let then-ace Jon Lester get rest after logging heavy innings in the first half of the season.
But with Clay Buchholz locked in over his past 10 starts, Farrell didn’t want to mess with Buchholz’s rhythm.
“In those years with Jon, maybe there was some buildup physically that provided signs that a couple extra days would help — or skipping him like we did one year,” Farrell said. “Clay is in such a good place right now where physically he feels great. Obviously, mentally he’s in a good spot.”
Buchholz is 5-2 with a 1.99 ERA since May 15. In his past four starts, he’s 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA.
The last time he took the mound, he tossed his ninth career complete game.
The Red Sox traded 19-year-old pitching prospect Ramses Rosario to the Nationals for an international bonus pool slot. The Sox had their international spending restricted to $300,000 per player, which made the slot a trade chip. Rosario was pitching for the third straight year in the Dominican Summer league, going 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA in nine appearances . . . Joe Kelly, who had been working on fastball location at Pawtucket, was knocked out of his start Wednesday after being hit in the right arm by a line drive. The extent of his injury is not known. Before that news, Farrell had said there have been discussions about Kelly going to the bullpen when he returns to Boston. In his first two starts with the PawSox, Kelly was 1-0, giving up five runs and nine hits in 13 innings. “It’s been two starts and they’ve been good starts,” Farrell said before the game. “I wouldn’t say dominant.” Kelly has big-league experience out of the pen, making 30 career relief appearances. “I think at some point there’s an option to come back in that role,” Farrell said. “But we haven’t said that there’s an X number of starts before we would alter his path. But he’s got bullpen experience at the major-league level.” . . . Daniel Nava, who is on a rehabilitation assignment with Triple A Pawtucket, was 0 for 4 with a walk in a 9-8 loss against Lehigh Valley. He is 2 for 16 in five games.
Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.