BOSTON — When Terry Francona thinks of his situation in right field, several names come to mind. One of them, J.D. Drew, remains sidelined with a finger injury. Three others (four if you include Mike Aviles in that mix) are vying for playing time as the final month of the regular season begins.
It's up to Francona to not only fill out the lineup card each day of September, but also to see which guys will be the biggest help if and when the playoffs roll around. There are no concrete answers.
"I can't sit here today and tell you I know what to do," Francona said.
Each of the three healthy options — Josh Reddick, Darnell McDonald and newly acquired Conor Jackson — can make a claim for his a particular role. However, the last two figure to get locked into a good old-fashioned battle for at-bats.
"How we fit both of them in, some of that's going to be determined by how they swing the bat. There's no getting around it," Francona said.
The first order of business is seeing what Jackson can provide. Brought up primarily as a first baseman, he is newer to the outfield, but says he is comfortable playing there and knows he has needed to take on some part-time role to have longevity in this game.
"Whatever they need," the 29-year-old Jackson said. "If I'm a bat off the bench, get in there against left-handers. Whatever my role is going to be I’m going to be ready for it and prepared."
When asked how often Jackson will be in there ahead of McDonald, Francona stressed how open-ended that is right now. It’s all about having more options, just in case.
"How he's going to be used, I really don’t know, or how extensively, we really don’t know," Francona said. "Just think talking to [general manager] Theo [Epstein], the chance to get a bat with a chance to impact, especially against left-handed pitching … If something were to happen in September, say to [McDonald], and we don't have somebody, that’s not good."
Francona said he likes that he knows what he is going to get from McDonald and is itching to see what he has in Jackson. But finding enough at-bats to get either of them going in a significant way is not easy.
"That's going to be the challenge," Francona said. "If you have two right-handed hitters, who do you play? Can you play them enough to where they get hot? That'll be something we need to think about."
Defense also comes into play. Aside from a high-profile error Wednesday night against the Yankees, Reddick has played a pretty good right field. Drew plays an excellent one, but there is no timetable for his return. McDonald is at least familiar with the environs. Jackson, according to Francona, is here more for his bat but will not hurt the team when out there.
Right field has been in a state of flux all season. That will remain the case going forward with several of the parties fighting for playing time.