HOUSTON -- David Ortiz expressed excitement on Friday about the opportunity Major League Baseball has granted him to be the American League's captain in this year's State Farm Home Run Derby.

Ortiz won the Derby last year in Anaheim, and this year, he gets the honor of picking his three AL teammates for the Derby. Prince Fielder is the captain of the NL's four-man team.

"I'm talking to some guys," Ortiz said. "I'm not going to tell you guys right now. I'm going to tell you guys a few days later after the guys agree to be in. We're just going to try to put a show on."

While some players are reluctant to participate in the Derby, Ortiz has always relished the showcase event.

"I remember, when I went back to my country after last year's season, man, it was unbelievable how many people came to me and told me how excited the whole country was about the Home Run Derby," Ortiz said. "It seemed like everything just stopped for the Home Run Derby last year. From here, I don't even have to tell you, everybody is really enjoying the Home Run Derby. We exchanged ideas, me and some people from MLB, and they came out with that idea, and yeah, now we're going to move it on."

While Jose Bautista is the most obvious candidate for Ortiz to solicit, he wouldn't divulge any of the names. His teammate Adrian Gonzalez is also someone he might call on.

"I have three guys in mind, but I haven't talked to them, so I can't give you guys any details right now," Ortiz said. "But you guys will find out."

Youkilis back, but Ellsbury a late scratch

HOUSTON -- One of these days, the Red Sox will get their full lineup back together. For now, they will take what they can get.

For Friday night's opener of a three-game series against the Astros, cleanup man Kevin Youkilis returned after missing Thursday's game with a contusion on his left ankle. J.D. Drew, who has been nursing a heavily bruised left eye, was back in right field, making his first start in five days.

But a couple of hours before the first pitch, leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury was scratched due to illness. This caused a shuffle that moved Josh Reddick from left to center, and Drew Sutton into the lineup for his first start in left field since Sept. 5, 2009.

"[Bench coach DeMarlo Hale] told me, 'Make sure you're doing stuff in the outfield.' You never know," said Sutton. "So you try to do as much stuff in the infield as you can during BP, and then add the outfield. I'm just trying to get good reads off the bat. That's basically the best way to get work during BP. Hopefully I can do it like Adrian [Gonzalez]. Keep everything in front of me and not turn it into doubles."

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Speaking of Gonzalez, manager Terry Francona hinted that his star first baseman may play right field for the second time of the road trip on Saturday, when the Red Sox face lefty J.A. Happ. That would give David Ortiz his second start of the trip, at first base.

"They have a lefty going tomorrow, but he's got huge splits, so we might do it tomorrow," Francona said. "We'll see. I thought about it today a little bit, but [Tim Wakefield] gives up so many fly balls, it didn't seem like it made sense."

Having Youkilis down for just one game was big for the Red Sox, who are already without Carl Crawford.

"I saw him this morning," Francona said of his cleanup hitter. "He got up and went and worked out. Got the blood flowing a little bit and said he's ready to go. As tolerated. He's got a pretty good bone bruise, and hopefully he won't hit another ball off of there tonight."

Youkilis underwent an X-ray on Thursday, which came back negative, giving the Red Sox a chance to sigh some relief.

"The doctors said I can't hurt it more, so no worries," Youkilis said. "There's definitely a guard I'll wear, but there's nothing much you can do. You just take better swings and don't foul it off your foot. That's the key. A lot of times it's from bad swings -- or sinkers in that you're swinging at."

Crawford gets to catch up with family, friends

HOUSTON -- As low-key as he is, this Interleague series against the Astros was definitely one that Carl Crawford had circled not long after he signed with the Red Sox.

A proud native of Houston, Crawford relishes any chance he gets to play at Minute Maid Park. Unfortunately for the left fielder, he will have to settle for reuniting with family and friends this weekend. Playing baseball for the Red Sox will not be on the agenda.

Though Crawford is eligible to return from the disabled list for the series finale on Sunday, that won't happen.

"Being back home and not playing is disappointing for me, but I can't harp on it," Crawford said.

The outfielder is making progress with his left hamstring strain, but his return will probably come at some point next week during the homestand against the Blue Jays and Orioles.

"I'm feeling a little bit better," Crawford said. "Things are coming along, so it's getting better. I've been throwing pretty much every day. I want to keep my arm loose."

Even without baseball to play, it should be a busy weekend for the left fielder.

"I love coming back home, especially during the season; I rarely get to do that," Crawford said. "Coming back home is definitely good for me."

NY Times sells its stake in Red Sox

The New York Times Co. sold more than half of its stake in the Red Sox for $117 million, The Associated Press reported on Friday.

According to the AP, The New York Times Co. said in a regulatory filing that it realized a pre-tax gain of $64 million in the deal for 390 of its shares. The report also states that the newspaper will continue to seek a buyer for the remaining 310 shares in Fenway Sports Group, the parent company of the Red Sox, the Liverpool Football Club, 80 percent of the NESN television network and 50 percent of Roush Fenway Racing.

In 2002, The New York Times Co. bought 17.8 percent of the ballclub's parent company for $75 million. It has been looking to sell for three years.

Managing vs. Mills 'not optimum' for Francona

HOUSTON -- While Terry Francona has had plenty of exhibition reunions with his former University of Arizona roommate and longtime bench coach, Friday marked the first time he managed against Brad Mills in a game that counted.

Francona spent some quality time with Mills during the day on Friday, but admitted that managing against his close friend wasn't ideal.

"It's fun in Spring Training because the outcome of the game doesn't matter, but it's hard," Francona said. "We want to win so bad and so does he. I don't know if uncomfortable is the right word. [It's] not optimum."

While the Red Sox have legitimate aspirations of playing deep into October, the Astros entered the series with the worst record in the Majors at 29-53. Still, Francona didn't think Mills needed advice from him on how to keep things afloat.

"I don't need to give advice," Francona said. "I probably learned more from him than he learned from me. He doesn't need it. I think whatever they're going through, his true colors are probably showing through. They're not going to get outworked. He can handle whatever gets thrown at him."

Mills appreciated Francona's comments.

"Terry's just that kind of guy," said Mills. "He's a nice guy. I love him to death, and at the same time, I appreciate him saying that. He didn't have to. He's saying he learned a lot from me, it's immeasurable what I learned from him."

The emotional aspect of things won't get any easier for Francona after the Red Sox leave Houston. After that, the Red Sox open a three-game series at Fenway against the Blue Jays, who are managed by John Farrell -- Francona's former teammate with the Indians and his pitching coach for four seasons.