Familiar face returns to Fenway Park

Familiar face returns to Fenway Park

The city of Boston got in Trot Nixon's blood. And his hustle on the field endeared him to Red Sox Nation, which, truth be known, is not always an easy segment of the population to please.

So when Nixon returns to Fenway Park this week for the Indians' three-game series with the Red Sox, pardon him if he feels a little strange in the visitors' dugout. And pardon the fans if they find it odd to see him in a Cleveland uniform.

"I've got a lot of friends on the team that I like and a lot of the people in the city who meant a lot to my family and I," Nixon said, "so it will be an exciting three days. And I'm hopeful we, as a team, win these three games. We're obviously playing a great team in the Red Sox."

Nixon, of course, played on some great teams during his 10 years with the Red Sox -- none greater than the 2004 club that brought a World Series title to Boston.

Playing on those teams taught Nixon some valuable lessons he hopes to pass down to the young Indians this season. The Tribe currently is in the midst of a 10-day stretch in which they'll play 10 games against the Tigers and Red Sox, and some in the clubhouse believe this is a test that could define where this club is headed.

"You can learn a lot about this team in how we play [during this stretch]," Nixon said. "This is probably one of the two or three tests that we're going to have this year. The first test was losing off-days and having to make up four games against Seattle, which is Major League Baseball's fault. And I'm sure there will be another time in the season where we'll run into a series or a couple series that are going to define this team."

Nixon has one piece of advice for his teammates this week, and that's to relax.

"When I see guys all worked up or too quiet, I start yelling at them," he said. "It's important to relax and live in the moment. There are times where I didn't live in the moment, especially in some of those Yankees-Red Sox games. You've got to live in those moments, because they're not going to happen for everybody."

Nixon still cherishes the moments he spent playing in Fenway Park, and he's looking forward to his return.

"My first couple years, I don't think they sold out every game," Nixon said. "We had a lot of sell-outs, don't get me wrong. But now it's a premium ticket. [Playing there] has never lost its luster. People don't realize ... those fans are not just in the city. They're in the suburbs, they're in the next state over, all over the northeast. They know the players, they know what they look like with a hat on, a hat off, glasses on. They know your numbers, your stats. They just want you to play hard and win. That should be the goal of every player."

And that will be Nixon's goal in an important series for the Indians, who will have their work cut out for them in facing Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

"It's obviously difficult," Nixon said. "But I've gone into series and faced [Roger] Clemens, [Mike] Mussina and [Andy] Pettitte, and I've gone into series and faced [Greg] Maddux, [Tom] Glavine and [John] Smoltz. But [the Red Sox probables are] a good threesome."

Pitching matchup
CLE: LHP Cliff Lee (2-1, 5.93 ERA)
After a May 18 victory over the rival Reds, Lee pitched poorly on Wednesday in a loss at Kansas City, drawing the ire of manager Eric Wedge. Lee was given a three-run lead in the first, but he quickly gave it back as the Royals scored seven runs in the first two innings. Lee was pulled after 90 pitches. He gave up eight runs on 10 hits, including three home runs and a walk, while striking out three, and he made two costly defensive gaffes.

BOS: RHP Curt Schilling (4-2, 3.94 ERA)
Schilling has been less than sharp in his past three starts, giving up 29 hits and 12 runs over 17 1/3 innings. Schilling surrendered 12 hits and six runs in his last outing, an 8-3 loss to the Yankees on Wednesday night. Strangely, Schilling has four no-decisions in his five Fenway starts this year. Lifetime against the Indians, Schilling is 1-2 with a 4.40 ERA.

Player to watch
The current crop of Indians doesn't have a whole lot of experience against Schilling, but Travis Hafner's brief exposure to the right-hander has been positive. Hafner is 4-for-6 with a double and an RBI.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• STO

On radio
• WTAM 1100

Up next
• Tuesday: Indians (Jeremy Sowers, 1-4, 6.29) at Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 7-0, 2.66), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Indians (Paul Byrd, 5-1, 3.81) at Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 7-2, 4.43), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Tigers (Justin Verlander, 5-1, 2.71) at Indians (TBD), 7:05 p.m. ET

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.