But once third baseman Mike Lowell was lost for good after Game 3 of the American League Division Series, Kotsay became a fixture at first, with Gold Glove-winning first baseman Kevin Youkilis moving across the diamond to third.
Saturday night's Game 6 of the AL Championship Series marked the seventh consecutive game Kotsay started at first base for the Red Sox. Not bad for a guy who has mainly been an outfielder in his career.
"He's a good first baseman, he really is," said Francona. "I think I've been saying it. But he really is. The only thing he hasn't done is played a lot [at first in his career]. But if at some point, if somebody plays him there, he's good. He has the reactions of an outfielder and the proximity of being close doesn't bother him."
Kotsay has also chipped in with his bat, most notably his double to center in the eighth inning of Game 5 that set up Coco Crisp's game-tying hit. Coming into Game 6, Kotsay was 6-for-21 in the series.
"His numbers should be phenomenal," said Francona. "He's lined out to center field a lot."
If not for Kotsay slipping through waivers in August, Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein never would have been able to acquire him.
"I remember Theo saying, 'If we wait until September and something happens, we can't do anything,'" Francona said. "He was right. It's better to have another good player because, yeah, he's played a bunch."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.