Daric Barton returns — hitting sixth

Checking in from Fenway Park, where the A’s begin a 10-game road trip with three against the Red Sox. It’s not an ideal place to play for a team licking its wounds after being swept by the Yankees. However, the A’s are 26-23 against Boston since 2006, the best record vs. the Sox of any team in the American League. Most of that success has come at home, as the A’s are just 4-12 at Fenway over their past 16 games. But they’ve come up with some surprise performances in this park. Josh Outman takes the ball in the opener, and he’s never faced the Red Sox before. Only three hitters in Boston’s lineup have faced him – Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Jarrod Saltlamacchia, so we’ll see if the element of the unknown works in his favor.

–The lineups:

A’s: Crisp CF, DeJesus RF, Willingham LF, Matsui DH, Suzuki C, Barton 1B, Ellis 2B, Kouzmanoff 3B, Pennington SS; Outman LHP.

Sox: Ellsbury CF, Pedroia 2B, Gonzalez 1B, Youkilis 3B, Ortiz DH, Lowrie SS, Crawford LF, Cameron RF, Saltalamacchia C; Buchholz RHP.

–After sitting for two games, Daric Barton makes his first return to the lineup hitting sixth. It’s his first time hitting anywhere besides the No. 2 spot this season. I’d expect to see him hitting lower for an extended period. David DeJesus is swinging the bat pretty well, and he’s a natural for the second spot. It doesn’t hurt to get Willingham more at-bats right now either, so it makes sense to try him at No. 3. It’s clear from hearing Barton and manager Bob Geren talk that Barton’s slump has largely been mental.

“It’s the same game, just a different spot in the order,” Barton said of the switch. “Maybe it’s a chance to have some more guys on base, hopefully take the thought out of everythying and just go out and play.”

–Hideki Matsui is also back in there. Would it be possible to bring the ex-Yankee back to Fenway and not play him? He’s hit .316 with nine homers and 36 RBIs in 51 games here.

–Reliever Grant Balfour went on paternity leave to be with his wife, Angie, who gave birth to the couple’s first child, daughter Raegan, late Thursday night. Balfour can be away for as many as three days, but Geren said he’s hopeful of having Balfour back by Sunday. Fautino De Los Santos was recalled to take Balfour’s roster spot. And who takes the ball in the ninth inning tonight if there’s a save on the line? “Andrew Bailey,” Geren said without hesitation. Geren says he’s ready to return to the closer’s role, but stopped short of saying Bailey can handle back-to-back outings. That depends on how many pitches Bailey would throw in the first outing, Geren said.

–Rich Harden threw off the mound for the third time today and said he continues to throw well. No timetable for Harden to throw to hitters yet, as he is still throwing strictly fastballs.

–The A’s upcoming starting rotation: Outman tonight, followed by Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Guillermo Moscoso (who is being skipped this weekend) on Tuesday at Baltimore.

–All you Adam Rosales fans can start getting excited. It sounds as if the infielder isn’t far away from returning. He’s scheduled to play seven innings at second base tonight for Sacramento. “Once he gets built up to nine innings, obviously that’s the key number we’re looking at,” Geren said. Expect Rosales to see time at third base when he returns … only seems to make sense.

Joe Stiglich