All eyes will be on Clay Buchholz on Monday as the righty tries to snap out of his mysterious early-season funk in the opener of a three-game series in Atlanta.
Last season, Buchholz was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game when healthy. He hasn't been close to that this year for a Red Sox team currently in free-fall, losers of their last 10 games after getting swept by the Rays.
In nine starts this season, Buchholz holds a 6.32 ERA and hasn't pitched deeper than the seventh inning. In his last outing against the Blue Jays, he survived just 4 2/3 innings, surrendering five runs (four earned) and two home runs. Manager John Farrell is hopeful that some of the adjustments Buchholz has made with pitching coach Juan Nieves in recent days will be of help.
"It was good," said Farrell. "There was the ability to address some of the things that were revealed through video, some of the drifting of habits or flaws that emerged. It's one thing to have that checkpoint or reminder in the bullpen session.
"Once he gets between the lines and at game speed, that's where the repeating of that or the repetition to it will be important. More importantly, he's seeing what's there and the ability to have that one simple checkpoint or verbal reminder in the moment is what we'll hopefully get the chance to adjust if it emerges again."
The Braves, who won their series with Colorado this weekend, have had their own trouble recently with starter Ervin Santana, who will take the mound Monday. Over his last three starts, Santana is 1-2 with a 5.21 ERA and 12 strikeouts. He has allowed more runs in his past two starts (11) than he had in his first six combined (9).
In his last start against the Brewers on Wednesday, he went seven innings, but struggled with command issues, allowing six earned runs that included giving up his first grand slam.
He'll be fortunate to face a Boston lineup without Mike Napoli, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with a sprained fourth finger.
Napoli is the only current Boston player who has had success against Santana. In 19 at-bats against the righty, he has hit .368 with three homers and 10 RBIs.
Braves: Revolving second base door
When Tyler Pastornicky returned to the lineup on Sunday, he became the third different Braves player to start at second base through the first six games of this homestand.
But despite the fact that Dan Uggla got two unexpected starts on Thursday and Friday, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez indicated that Pastornicky and Ramiro Pena will continue getting a majority of the playing time at second base.
Before he strained his left calf during a May 17 game in St. Louis, Pastornicky, a right-handed hitter, was in position to get a majority of the starts at second base. Pena, a switch-hitter, has proven more successful when swinging from the left side of the plate.
But because the Braves believe Pena is most valuable as a bench player, they are not ready to institute a strict platoon. Because there is a greater abundance of right-handed starting pitchers, that arrangement would give Pena a majority of the playing time.
"It doesn't have to be a straight platoon," Gonzalez said. "If we feel like Tyler can handle a certain right-hander or Pena can handle a left-hander, we'll do it that way."
Red Sox: Ortiz makes season debut at first
Monday marks the first time this season the Red Sox will be without the designated hitter. With Napoli on the DL, star slugger David Ortiz will make the start at first base.
This will be the first time Ortiz has played first since Game 5 of last year's World Series.
Ortiz started six regular-season games at first last season and made no errors in 37 chances.
• Boston is a season-low nine games below .500 and a season-high eight games back in the AL East.
• Jason Heyward's bid to match his career-best 12-game hitting streak was snapped during Saturday's hitless performance in Atlanta.
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.