"Well, like I said before the game -- and I told the guys if they were listening after the game -- just an amazing effort by a group of fabulous professionals who played through a lot of adversity, played through time zones, played through weather," said Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "They did one heck of a job winning these last two series. Going home at .500 is, I think, a feather in their cap. They played great."
The bad news for Boston is the number of outfielders (seven) on the disabled list and its place in the American League East standings (last).
And in the odd category is Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who started in right field four times during Boston's eight-game road trip.
When the Red Sox, who just wrapped up a stretch of 20 games in 20 days, face the Rays on Friday night, Gonzalez will likely return to first base, said Valentine.
Both right field, with the short porch, and left field, with the Green Monster, make defense difficult even for experienced outfielders.
"I don't think so. I don't know," Valentine said of playing Gonzalez the outfield at Fenway. "I mean, there has been some thought. There might be continuing conversation. For the most part, when you're on one side of the diamond and you see the ball off the bat, and get your reaction and then try to change that perspective, it becomes more challenging from what I've experienced -- not only personally, but talking to players. I've even seen the infield transition difficult for some guys."
The Rays (27-18) come in with two straight wins and a healthy second-place standing in the division. Boston and Tampa Bay split a two-game series last week in St. Petersburg, after Boston took three of four in the teams' first meeting of the season at Fenway in mid-April.
The Rays might be even better if they could play cleaner defense. In 45 games, they've committed a league-leading 41 errors.
Rays: Cobb returns to birthplace
Alex Cobb was born in Boston, though he went to high school in Florida. The right-hander debuted in the Majors last season, and this will be his first time facing the Red Sox.
Friday marks his second start of the season after he took a win with seven innings of two-run ball against the Braves in a 5-2 victory Saturday.
"He got his innings in [at Triple-A Durham], guy gets hurt, he comes up, does what he's supposed to do, that's outstanding," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Cobb spent significant time with the big club last season, which has helped this year.
"[It's] invaluable the amount of experience I had last year to help me out this year," Cobb said. "If I didn't have the experience I had last year coming up this year I'd be learning a lot. Right now, I know what I need to do. I just go out there and pitch my game.
"I was able to block out everything. I'm here to pitch. I'm not caught up in the craziness of the MLB lifestyle. I'm able to settle down and throw my game. ... When I'm out on the mound, I feel like I'm supposed to be here. All I'm trying to do is win now and not mask the possibility of getting hit around a lot. I'm out there trying to really compete and win."
Red Sox: Podsednik's presence felt quickly
Outfielder Scott Podsednik's first Major League home run since Sept. 6, 2010, when he was the Dodgers, came Wednesday in a 6-5 win over the Orioles, and he didn't pretend he always knew he'd get another.
"I had a pretty good spring, so I felt physically my body was in the shape to still play," Podsednik said. "Whether I could execute that at the Major League level, no, I really didn't know. I know my body felt good and felt prepared, but the way you feel and getting out and playing against the best players in the world is two different things."
Mike Aviles is tied for second on the Red Sox with eight homers, surpassing his 2011 total (seven) and two shy of his career high (10 in 2008).