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David Ortiz gets rare AL start at 1B, replaces struggling Mike Napoli

BOSTON -- Red Sox slugger David Ortiz will start at first base Sunday against the Houston Astros -- his first start at the position in an American League contest in almost nine years -- while the struggling Mike Napoli sits.

Ortiz, who played three games at first base earlier this season during interleague action, has not started there against an AL opponent since Aug. 5, 2006. He committed an error that day but has played 40 games at the position since then with just one miscue.

This is his first start at the position in a game at Fenway Park since July 16, 2005, when the Red Sox hosted the New York Yankees.

"Complete confidence in his ability to play the position," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "That was part of the conversation in getting him to this point. He's willing to do whatever to give us our best chance to win today.

"Any time David's name comes up, you think DH, and yet every game that we've seen him play first base he plays it freely and plays it naturally. Expect that to take place today."

Taking Napoli's bat out of the lineup is part of the mission to field the best team. Napoli is 0-for-9 with four strikeouts in the series against the Astros. His average is down to .192, and he has one home run in his last 28 games. With Monday being a day off for the Sox, Napoli will get two full days to reset.

"He's obviously in a stretch right now where he's grinding through some things. You see him work counts, you're seeing him go early in counts, the hard contact has been inconsistent," Farrell said. "I think there's been times where he's looked for a certain pitch in a count and not gotten it, and it has resulted in a located pitch by a pitcher.

"He fully recognizes where he's at and continues to work at getting this thing turned around, but [I] felt like today was a day to get him a little bit of a breather."

Farrell would not rule out using this arrangement going forward.