© 2010 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

06/17/10 11:21 AM ET

Boston braces for Manny's return to Fenway

Welcome back, Manny Ramirez. One of Boston's most beloved and enigmatic sports heroes returns for the first time on Friday, when Ramirez and the Dodgers come to town for a three-game series. Ramirez, who helped the Red Sox to two World Series titles, hasn't been back to Boston since he was involved in a ballyhooed Trade Deadline deal during the 2008 season.

And in some respects, that seems like a long time ago. The Red Sox have done a major overhaul on their offense, adding several regulars (Adrian Beltre, Marco Scutaro, Victor Martinez and Mike Cameron) that Ramirez wouldn't recognize. Ramirez, meanwhile, has made himself right at home in a dangerous lineup that competes year after year for the National League West title.

Ramirez hit 274 home runs and drove in 868 runs in eight seasons with the Red Sox, and he's always enjoyed hitting at Fenway Park. The 12-time All-Star has more at-bats (2,085) and home runs (141) at Fenway than anywhere else, and his career numbers there (.315 average, .423 on-base, .583 slugging) are comparable to his career overall (.313/.411/.589).

That's the main story on Friday, but it's hardly the only one. Carlos Monasterios and Felix Doubront will engage in an interesting duel on Friday in which they have much more in common than the average matchup. Both guys are natives of Venezuela and starting in place of injured stalwarts, and neither of them had pitched above Double-A before this season.

And if you're looking for differences, you'd have to start by saying that Monasterios is a little bit more experienced. The 24-year-old has already made five big league starts, but he hasn't been able to pitch deeper than the sixth inning in any of them. Monasterios will be starting for Chad Billingsley, who went to the disabled list with a strained right groin on Wednesday.

Doubront, meanwhile, will be making his big league debut. The 22-year-old southpaw was promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket to start for Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is on the disabled list with a strained right forearm. Enter Doubront, who posted a 4-0 record and a 2.51 ERA in his first eight starts at Double-A Portland followed by a 2-1 record and a 1.08 mark at Pawtucket.

Monasterios, meanwhile, has been primed for this type of assignment. The rookie was originally signed as an international free agent by the Yankees, and he was traded to Philadelphia in the Bobby Abreu deal back in 2006. And then, before he knew it, he'd changed teams twice. Monasterios was picked by the Mets in December's Rule 5 Draft and subsequently traded to the Dodgers.

Monasterios, just the fourth Rule 5 pick to ever break camp with the Dodgers, has a 1.83 ERA as a reliever and a 3.97 mark as a starter. He was unable to make it out of the third inning in his last start, though, and will be watched closely on Friday.

Dodgers: Ethier eyes return to form
The Dodgers still haven't hit their stride offensively, and they're hoping that two of their main lineup cogs will make a quicker return to form. Veteran outfielders Andre Ethier and Ramirez are still trying to find their collective momentum after twin stays on the disabled list, making the Dodgers' road trip to an offensive haven in Fenway Park all the more interesting.

Ethier was one of the hottest hitters in the league before his trip to DL, and his season statistics still reflect that fact. Ethier leads the league with a .339 batting average, but he's hit just .234 (15-for-64) since returning to the lineup. Ramirez, meanwhile, has home runs in each of his past two starts but is hitting just .255 (26-for-102) since coming back from his own ailment.

Red Sox: Beltre on impressive tear
Wherever you want to place the boundaries, third baseman Adrian Beltre has been on an impressive streak. Beltre has hit safely in 12 of his past 13 games, and he hit safely in 11 of the 15 games before that tear. If you trace it back to April 22, Beltre has batted safely in 40 of his past 50 games, notching a .358 average (71-for-198) with 25 extra-base hits and 40 RBIs.

Those numbers have helped Beltre place in the league's top 10 in batting average (.337), hits (87), multihit games (28), RBIs (47) and total bases (134). Beltre, who signed a lucrative free-agent contract with the Red Sox over the winter, has provided plenty of early return on that investment and has fit perfectly in a run-producing slot of the lineup.

Worth noting
Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo snapped his scoreless streak at 18 2/3 innings on Wednesday, but he also picked up his second career save. Kuo has held left-handed hitters to an 0-for-21 showing this season. ...If Monasterios manages to last with Los Angeles all season, he'd join D.J. Houlton as the only two Rule 5 Draft picks to survive a full year with the Dodgers. ... The Dodgers put Rafael Furcal on the bereavement list Thursday. Shortstop Chin-lung Hu was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque to take his place. ... Dustin Pedroia has hit safely in 9 consecutive games at Fenway Park with at least one extra-base hit in the first eight of those contests, going 15-for-37 (.405) with 8 doubles and a homer during that stretch.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.