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Ellsbury: ‘They told me I would be in center’ 05.25.10 at 6:19 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury both confirmed that the plan going forward is to play Ellsbury in center field on a regular basis, even with the return of Mike Cameron.

“They told me I would be in center,” Ellsbury said prior to the Red Sox’ Tuesday night game with the Rays. “I don’t know what that means, but I’m assuming I’ll play center for the rest of the year.”

Ellsbury wasn’t in the Sox’ lineup Tuesday, getting what Francona described as a “breather” after having played the last three games following his stint on the 15-day disabled list (ribs). Cameron got the start in center field.

“I think so for now,” said Francona of the plan to put Ellsbury in center field. “The good news is that they can both play. I think that’s probably the right thing to do, at least for the moment, in the near future. I’ve talked to both of them about it. Both of them said, ‘Whatever you need to do.’ I just know we can’t play Cam every day yet. Hopefully we’ll get that point, but we need to be aware of what he’s gone through going forward. Because we have [Jeremy] Hermida it’s kind of a natural back and forth … I do think it might be a little bit easier on him.”

Ellsbury played six games in left field before having to go on the DL with cracked ribs. He makes no mistake about the fact that all things being equal center field remains his preferred position.

“That’s my natural position,” said Ellsbury, who said he did feel comfortable playing left in his short time there earlier this season.. “I’ve had success playing center field. I’ve played there my whole life. It’s definitely my natural position.

“It’s just nice to always have a position. You just know where you’re going to be at. You don’t have to look at the lineup every single day. ‘Hey, I’m going to be at short, I’m going to be at second, I’m going to be at third, I’m going to be at first.’ It’s nice to have one mainstay position.”

For Cameron the experience in left will be somewhat new, not having played there in a major league game since 2000. And while the 37-year-old did man left for Double A Portland in his final rehab appearance, other than a brief stint in the minors his experience left is limited to three big league games.

“I don’t think I’ll have a problem with it,” said Cameron, who said he wasn’t surprised by the move when told because the team had discussed the possibility when he first signed.. “Whatever they decide to do. But I feel pretty good now, so we’ll see. I’m just trying to get a chance to a chance to get out here and run around and try and play the game to the best I can possibly play it. If that’s the case, man, then it is what it is.”

It’s Lester’s turn to be reunited with Varitek 05.25.10 at 12:07 pm ET
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Jason Varitek will get the start behind the plate on Tuesday as Victor Martinez recovers from his toe injury. (AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Through all the particulars that surrounded Clay Buchholz’ outing Monday night against the Rays, one thing that almost went unnoticed was the reunion that occurred in the third inning.

Not since Victor Martinez came to the Red Sox at last season’s trade deadline had Buchholz thrown in a game to Jason Varitek, who came on to serve as the pitcher’s batterymate after Martinez was forced to leave with a contusion of his left big toe.

“It had been a long time,” said Buchholz on the way out of the Tropicana Field visitors clubhouse.

Now it’s Jon Lester’s turn.

With Martinez’ toe expected to keep him out of the starting lineup, Varitek figures to get the start Tuesday night. And while the pairing is nothing new — with Lester having thrown to the Red Sox captain 80 times throughout his career — there is an adjustment.

First, Lester hasn’t thrown to Varitek since April 28 in Toronto, when he allowed just one hit over seven innings. But, as the starter explained following his complete game victory over Minnesota in his last start, each catcher does present different approaches when it comes to game-plans and such.

“Vic likes a lot more changeup, speaking for myself. Tek will sometimes rely on my cutter,” Lester explained. “Then again, Vic will do the same thing, and Tek will do the same thing. They have different feels for the game, not that one is right or one is wrong. I like throwing to both of them. They both have their positives.”

Lester has thrown to Martinez seven times this season, compared to just twice with Varitek. And while the pitcher clearly has a comfort level with Varitek after teaming up these last few years, there did appear to be a growing familiarity when it came to Martinez’ approach.

“He’s done a good job. He came in last year, having obviously seen us, but he had to learn a new staff. Not that it’s taken him a while, but it’s taken everybody a while to feel comfortable in those big situations,” Lester said of Martinez. “He’s done a good job. You build confidence, that’s the name of the game. He just needs to get better with each pitcher because each pitcher is different in their own way. He’s done good. With our whole staff he’s gotten a whole lot better.”

It is no secret that Martinez and Varitek have slightly different approaches. As Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell put it, “They are two different people and have two different ways in the way they rely on pitch selections. That’s not to condemn in any way, but that’s the difference in two players.”

In spring training Farrell also touched on the catchers’ differences.

“They have two different approaches to the game,” he said. “Not to say Victor doesn’t pay attention to the scouting report, because that’s not true. But he wants to get the feel and the reaction from the hitter on a given pitch to get the information to make the next selection. There’s a foundation there with the report, but how that’s executed and played out in a game is a little bit different.”

Thus far this season the Red Sox pitchers’ ERA with Martinez behind the plate is 4.78, while the ERA with Varitek present is 4.08. But, as Lester pointed out, the progression of Martinez is the most encouraging aspect of the evolution, including his increased “pop time” throwing to second base, which has now bettered that of Varitek.

The bottom line is that with the improvement of Martinez behind the plate and Varitek at the plate, the Red Sox’ catching equation has offered strength. No team in baseball has a better slugging percentage out of the catching position or as many home runs. The combination of Varitek and Martinez is also hitting a combined .291.

It’s a dynamic that, in times like these, the Red Sox should feel fortunate to have — no matter the subtle differences.

Read More: Jason Varitek, victor martinez,
No roster move expected for injured Martinez 05.24.10 at 11:51 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox manager Terry Francona said after his team’s 6-1 win over the Rays, Monday night at Tropicana Field, that he didn’t expect the the Sox would have to make a roster move for Victor Martinez, who suffered a contusion on his left big toe on a second-inning foul ball off the bat of Tampa Bay’s Reid Brignac. X-rays were negative.

“The news is really good. When we’re watching him and you guys saw the same thing I did. He was hurting. He’s day to day, like we all are,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “I think it’s to the point where I don’t think we have to make a roster move. [Jason Varitek] catches tomorrow, obviously. But I think in a pinch, Victor will be available. We’ll certainly check with him in the morning but I think we dodged a bullet there.”

Martinez, who said he suffered an injury to the same toe a few years ago when fouling a ball off his foot, was in obvious discomfort, with the toe nail on the injured foot clearly bruised following the game. The catcher had remained in the game, but after drawing a walk in the third inning Jason Varitek replaced him as a pinch-runner.

“It’s painful. It’s a lot of pain,” Martinez said. “The good thing is the X-rays came out negative and there’s no break in it. We’ll see how it feels tomorrow. But it’s really, really painful … I tried to stay in but it was just getting worse. There was a lot of pain.”

Martinez had entered the game having gone 9-for-17 in his last four contests (.529).

McDonald to be designated for assignment 05.24.10 at 11:15 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox plan to activate outfielder Mike Cameron on Monday. In order to make room for the 37-year-old on the roster, the Sox will designate outfielder Darnell McDonald for assignment.

“While I was here I had a good time. I got  chance to play every day. Like I said, it’s a tough situation for everybody,” said McDonald. “[Terry Francona] expressed that to me. It’s one of those things. Like I said, I hope some other doors have opened up from getting an opportunity here.

“I have nothing but love for the people here, the fans especially. It was a great opportunity. You never know. Obviously I want to be in the big leagues, and hopefully I showed some people I can play in the big leagues and that I’ll get another chance to do it.”

Cameron has been on the disabled list since April 20 with a lower abdomen strain. He is hitting .233/.361/.333/.694 in 11 games. He completed an eight-game rehab assignment in Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday by hitting a walkoff homer for the Sea Dogs.

McDonald, 31, ended up assuming an unexpectedly prominent role on the Sox. After being called up from Triple-A Pawtucket when Cameron and Jacoby Ellsbury were placed on the D.L. on April 20, he played in 31 games, hitting .263/.320/.400/.720 with three homers. He assumed instant relevance when he hit a homer in his first Red Sox at-bat and then added a walkoff single off the Green Monster against the Rangers on April 20.

Closing Time: Red Sox 6, Rays 1 05.24.10 at 9:28 pm ET
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David Ortiz got the scoring going for the Red Sox with his ninth homer of the season, and eighth for the month of May. (AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox continued to gain momentum while going through what was thought to be a defining stretch of games, beating the first-place Tampa Bay Rays, 6-1, Monday night at Tropicana Field. It gave the Sox a 7-4 mark in their run of meetings with Detroit, the Yankees, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and now the team with the best record in the majors, the Rays. (Click here for a recap.)

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

- Clay Buchholz kept on keeping on. The righty followed up his eight-inning, two-run outing against Minnesota with a less pitch-efficient, yet almost equally as impressive performance against the first-place Rays. Buchholz went six innings, allowing one run (a solo blast by Carlos Pena) on six hits, striking out eight and walking just one. The Sox starter threw 108 pitches. Perhaps Buchholz’ signature moment came in the second inning when, with runners on second and third and one out, the hurler struck out both Reid Brignac and Jason Barlett to get out of the jam. Another highlight came in the third when Buchholz finished off a seven-pitch at-bat to Evan Longoria by striking out the Tampa Bay slugger swinging with a nasty changeup.

- Jeremy Hermida continued his two-out magic, ripping a bases-loaded single to left in the Red Sox’ three-run third inning with two outs. The outfielder has now notched 18 of his 24 RBI with two outs, and tied him with Texas’ Vladimir Guerrero for the most two-out RBI in the American League.

- Dustin Pedroia, who said prior to the game he was having a hard time sleeping and eating while enduring an 0-for-19 slump, put all of his troubles in the past right away, coming away with singles in his first two at-bats. The first-inning single, his first hit since May 19, was sent back up the middle into center field, while Pedroia’s second hit was blooped into shallow right field. The third-inning hit was made possible when what would have been a pop up to Tampa Bay catcher John Jaso was ruled a foul ball after it hit part of the roof’s structure. Pedroia capped his night with a ground-rule double, boosting his average nine points (.270) with the 3-for-5 performance.

- David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis continued to tear it up in the month of May, each going deep. First it was Ortiz who continued his power surge, launching a 92 mph fastball from Tampa Bay starter Wade Davis into the right field seats for his ninth homer of the season, and eighth of the month. Coming into the game he had gone 20-for-57 (.351) since May 1. Youkilis’ hot streak continued when he sent his 10th homer of the season over the left field wall in the fourth inning. The hit allowed the first baseman to reach safely in his 23rd straight game, a stretch in which he has now hit seven homers. Youkilis also drew a walk, adding to his major league-best total of 25 for the month.

- The Red Sox offense did what few have done against any Tampa Bay starter. By the time Wade Davis’ night was done, he had allowed five runs in just 3 2/3 innings, the most the righty had allowed in any appearance this season. The Rays’ starters came in with a major-league best combined ERA of 2.72, had allowed two earned runs or less 29 times and three earned runs or less 38 times. Only nine times in 44 games had the Rays’ relievers come into the game prior to the seventh inning. Want more? Coming into Monday night Tampa Bay had allowed 138 runs, the fewest runs allowed by a major league team through the first 44 games of the season since 1990, when the Oakland A’s gave up 138. The Rays’ team ERA of 2.87 is almost a full run better than the next closest team, Seattle (3.83).

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

- Victor Martinez, who came into the game having gone nine for his last 17, was forced from the game in the third inning after Brignac fouled a ball off the catcher’s left foot with two outs in the second. Martinez stayed in the game at the time, proceeding to walk in the third. But upon reaching first Red Sox manager Terry Francona chose to replace him with pinch-runner Jason Varitek. X-rays came back negative, with the team classifying the injury as a contusion to Martinez’ left toe. It resulted in the first time Varitek caught Buchholz since Martinez came to the Red Sox at last year’s trade deadline.

IN OTHER NEWS …

- Jed Lowrie visited with the Red Sox, working out on the Tropicana Field turf before his scheduled trip to Boston for a check-up. Lowrie has been batting mononucleosis since spring training. To read more on what Lowrie had to say regarding his status click here.

- Mike Cameron (abdominal) is slated to be activated from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday.

- Josh Beckett will throw another flat-ground side session before taking to the bullpen. The starter is eligible to come off the disabled list (back) June 3.

Martinez leaves game with left toe contusion 05.24.10 at 8:41 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez was forced to leave his team’s game with the Rays Monday night after being struck in the left foot by a Reid Brignac foul ball.

The Brignac foul ball off of Martinez’ foot came with two outs in the second inning and resulted in Red Sox manager Terry Francona and head trainer Mike Reinold to visit the catcher, who remained in the game. Martinez would eventually be replaced in the third inning after drawing a walk off of Tampa Bay starter Wade Davis, giving way to pinch-runner Jason Varitek.

X-rays on the foot were negative and the team was classifying the injury as a left toe contusion.

It marked the first time since Martinez came to the Red Sox following last year’s trade deadline that Sox starter Clay Buchholz had thrown to Varitek.

Checking in with Jed Lowrie 05.24.10 at 8:25 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jed Lowrie doesn’t know where he’s going, but he does know where he’s been and is intent on not heading back any time soon.

The Red Sox infielder was back with his team for the first time since contracting mononucleosis, working out on the Tropicana Field turf before heading back to Boston for some check-ups in the coming days.

“I’m just concentrating on putting this behind me,” said Lowrie, who said he is starting to put back the 12 pounds he loss due to the illness. “At the end of the day, I want to get better, I want to put it behind me, and I want to play baseball. That’s what this is about. I want to play baseball, and I want to be healthy. This is as frustrating as it gets, but I think the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing I’m going to play healthy.”

Lowrie can now lift weights and participate in some baseball activities while rehabbing in Fort Myers, Fla. And while there is no timetable for a return, his current state is a far cry from what he experiencing upon first dealing with his illness.

“I caught it. It could have been worse. It was still significant,” he said prior to the Red Sox series opener with the Rays. “It was bad. I’d sleep 12 hours a night and wake up tired. It wasn’t any fun. It’s taken a while, and it’s going to take a while to build back up, too.

“At first, I was sleeping so much that I would show up to the field and then go back and go to sleep. As I progressed, i was staying up a little more but still lying on the couch and watching TV. I was pretty sedentary for a while.”

Lowrie, who hasn’t been able to watch too many Red Sox games due to satellite TV in his apartment, believes a benefit from the time off is the chance for his surgically-repaired left wrist to get healthier. Still, there remains the frustration regarding not knowing exactly when a return to active duty is going to present itself.

“It’s just an everyday thing. It’s not necessarily a day-to-day basis,” Lowrie explained. “When I started, I couldn’t do anything, and it worked to where I had a day I could do something and the next day I’d need off. In baseball, you play every day. You’re not playing once a week where you’re saving your energy for that one game. I want to be playing every day. I don’t want to be coming back and not have the energy to play every third day. I don’t want to be someone where the manager has to come in and ask, ‘How are you feeling today?’ I want to know I’m 100 percent.”

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