Nixon back at Fenway in a different uniform Friday

BOSTON – Trot Nixon and the man who replaced him as Boston’s right fielder will both start the AL championship series on the bench.

After spending the first 13 years of his career in the Red Sox organization, Nixon returns to Fenway Park to try to help the Cleveland Indians beat Boston out of a trip to the World Series.

But like Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew, Nixon will be a backup when the best-of-seven series begins tonight.

“If I’m not going to get much playing time, that’s fine,” Nixon told a crush of reporters outside the visitors’ clubhouse at Fenway Park yesterday. “I’m ready in case (they) need me.”

A former Red Sox first-round draft choice and a regular in right from 1999-2006, Nixon was a member of the team that ended the franchise’s 86-year title drought in 2004. But Boston let Nixon leave as a free agent last offseason after deciding to pursue Drew, signing him to a five-year, $70 million contract.

Drew has struggled, batting .270 with 11 homers and 64 RBIs in his first season in Boston and going 2-for-11 in the first round of the playoffs. He has faced Indians Game 1 starter C.C. Sabathia three times with three strikeouts.

So Bobby Kielty, a switch-hitter who’s had some success against Sabathia, will play right field in the opener instead.

“He was brought in here to give us some right-handed punch,” Boston manager Terry Francona said yesterday.

A switch-hitter who had been designated for assignment by Oakland, Kielty is 9-for-29 with two homers and four strikeouts in his career against Sabathia.

“I’ve seen the ball well out of his hand,” said Kielty, who didn’t play in the first round against Los Angeles. “There’s no question when hitters have success against pitchers they always feel mentally more confident.”

Nixon was a crowd favorite in Boston whose effort and desire were appreciated even as his production tailed off. That still made him valuable for the Indians, who were molding together a young team under a young manager to try to end a championship drought of their own.

“Trot has really served in a leadership capacity for us from Day 1,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said yesterday. “He was a tremendous influence on our ballclub early on in the year and has continued to be that influence. Even when we went with (Franklin) Gutierrez and started playing him a little bit more … he still stood the course.”