Red Sox: Eduardo Nunez returns to lineup in designated hitter role

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01: Eduardo Nunez
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01: Eduardo Nunez /

The Boston Red Sox will have Eduardo Nunez back in the lineup for the start of a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Eduardo Nunez will return to the lineup for the Boston Red Sox when they host the Toronto Blue Jays Monday night.

Nunez has been sidelined since September 9 with a sprained PCL but was deemed ready to return after successfully running the bases on Sunday. He’ll serve as the designated hitter in his first game back and it remains to be seen when or if he’ll be able to field a position.

At this point, the Red Sox are fortunate to have Nunez back in the lineup. The knee injury initially seemed to have put his season in jeopardy but Nunez responded well to treatment and returned ahead of schedule.

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Boston can certainly use his bat. Since being acquired from the San Francisco Giants before the trade deadline, Nunez leads the Red Sox with a .318 batting average and .885 OPS. He has also flashed some unexpected power, with eight of his 12 home runs this season coming in a Red Sox uniform.

Nunez will need to be carefully monitored the rest of the way but the team doesn’t believe he’s at risk of further injury by playing. Manager John Farrell told Jason Mastrodonato of the Boston Herald that it’s more about pain tolerance, so they will need to take it day by day depending on how Nunez feels.

"“It’s about managing it. His body has to recondition to take care of that,” explained Farrell. “His muscles have to respond in a different way. It’s a credit to (physical therapist Adam Thomas) and others in our training staff that have gotten him back to this point.”"

The team seems confident that Nunez can contribute at the plate even if he’s not quite ready to take the field. One area that is harder to anticipate is his impact on the base paths. While the training staff had him test running the bases, that doesn’t compare to stealing a base in a live game scenario. Nunez has stolen 24 bases this season, so speed is an element of his game that may be missing when he initially returns.

With Nunez filling the DH spot, Hanley Ramirez shifts to first base. Mitch Moreland will have a seat on the bench against Toronto’s left-handed starter Brett Anderson.

Andrew Benintendi is getting a rest tonight with Chris Young taking his place in left field. That’s a move that would have made more sense back when Young could still crush lefties, although Benny has been scuffling a bit of late and could use a day off with the season winding down.

Deven Marrero gets the start at second base as the Red Sox continue to tread carefully with how they utilize Dustin Pedroia.

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With the New York Yankees collecting a win earlier this afternoon, Boston needs to beat the Blue Jays to retain their five-game lead in the division standings and trim the magic number down to two.