Four days after Monday's tragic events at the Boston Marathon finish line, the Red Sox hoped to return to Fenway Park on Friday and do their part to help the city heal.
With the city and its surrounding areas in lockdown while law-enforcement officials pursued a second suspected bomber in nearby Watertown, a decision had not been made as of midday whether Friday's game against the Royals would be played as scheduled.
"I think we feel a sense that we can contribute to a communal spirit and hopefully create a little bit of a diversion for those affected directly," manager John Farrell said while the Red Sox were in Cleveland. "We're certainly not going to replace what happened but I think maybe we have a way of helping get back to some sense of normalcy."
If the game is played, the Boston lineup should also gain a little normalcy, as David Ortiz is expected to return to the designated hitter spot following a right Achilles injury that has kept him out since August. It's fitting Ortiz makes his season debut against the Royals, after going 2-for-4 with two RBIs against Kansas City in his final game before the injury.
"To have his presence in the middle of the order certainly speaks for itself for the number of years and the success he's had," Farrell said. "I think he gives us the potential to lengthen our lineup even more and we're certainly looking forward to seeing him in the clubhouse tomorrow."
Boston is on a six-game winning streak. After topping the Indians, 6-3, on Thursday, the Red Sox are scheduled to be home for 10 games.
As Major League Baseball and its clubs have shown throughout the week, Boston is on everyone's mind.
Royals manager Ned Yost is no different. He also knows what it's like to be the first opposing team to come to a ballpark after a tragedy, as he was a coach on the Braves squad that played the Mets at Shea Stadium after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
That experience, he said, proved to him that baseball can help.
"It sounds stupid, because you don't really have much of an impact, but you just go and be with the city," Yost said. "Baseball promotes healing for everybody. Don't ask me how. ... It just makes you feel better if you can go to a baseball game."
Royals pitcher Tim Collins, who grew up in nearby Worcester, Mass., agreed.
"You saw what happened with 9/11. Baseball kind of brought everybody together," Collins said. "This is kind of the same thing. When there's a tragedy, when something like this happens, you're able to take people's minds off what happened for just a few hours. It really helps. Obviously, it won't be forgotten, but it will ease people's minds a little bit for just a short time."
Royals: Ace on the hill
Right-hander James Shields, acquired this offseason from Tampa Bay, returns to a familiar American League East ballpark Friday, when he starts at Fenway Park for the first time in a Royals uniform.
The righty, who lost despite going the distance last time out, is 2-9 with a 5.86 ERA in 11 career starts in Boston.
• With off-days on Monday and Thursday, along with another on April 22, the Royals are working with a four-man rotation. Right-hander Luis Mendoza, usually the fifth starter, is available out of the bullpen for the next few days.
Boston: Buchholz goes for 4-0
The beginning of the season couldn't be going much better for right-hander Clay Buchholz, who makes his fourth start Friday in Boston. He's 3-0 with an 0.41 ERA and also is coming off an outing against the Rays in which he struck out a career-high 11.
He is 3-1 with a 2.19 ERA in three career starts against Kansas City.
Red Sox: Slumping Middlebrooks sits
Will Middlebrooks was out of the lineup Thursday for the first time this season. After belting three homers on April 7, Middlebrooks went cold, collecting two hits in 31 at-bats. Regardless, he said he doesn't plan to overhaul his approach.
"I'm not overmatched," Middlebrooks said. "I'm not getting beat by pitchers. I'm beating myself. It's just something I've got to get through."
• Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, who saw hitting streak snap at 12 on Wednesday, is 3-for-4 with a homer against Buchholz.
• The Red Sox are 10-0 when scoring first.
• Boston starters have not allowed more than three runs in any of the team's 14 games, a club record to start a season.