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Nation holds breath as Martinez catches his

BALTIMORE -- Rest easy, Red Sox fans. The "little pinch" in Pedro Martinez's right hip remained a bit sore, but it didn't prevent him from leading Derek Lowe and Bronson Arroyo in a rigorous running program before last night's rained-out game against the Orioles at Camden Yards. The three repeatedly ran the warning track from one foul pole to another in the oppressive, 90-degree heat, pushing themselves so hard that they needed to bend over to catch their breath after each interval.

Martinez said afterward he expects to make his next start Sunday in Minnesota against Johan Santana. Arroyo will open the series Friday against Kyle Lohse, with Lowe scheduled to face Brad Radke Saturday in the last game before the trading deadline.

"It didn't feel that comfortable, but not all that bad," Martinez said after his pregame workout. "I think with a little time and more therapy, it will be OK."

Martinez felt the pinch when he slipped on the rain-soaked mound in the seventh inning of Monday's game against the O's. But his hip felt well enough yesterday that he followed his regular routine the day after he pitches. He also played some catch.

"I think he's OK," manager Terry Francona said, noting that he lifted Martinez with one out in the seventh inning for precautionary reasons.

Martinez started the inning even though the Sox were leading, 12-2, and the field was rain-slickened, largely because Francona was trying to spare the overworked bullpen. Francona said he sent Martinez out for the seventh only after he received assurances from plate umpire Jim Joyce about the rain and the field conditions.

"I said, `Hey, if [Martinez] says one word about the mound, can we stop this?' " Francona said. "He said, `No problem.' "

By yesterday afternoon, Martinez seemed less concerned about his hip than about the health of the Yankees' Jason Giambi. Martinez learned that Giambi reportedly was being tested for a parasite that could cause a potentially fatal condition, though Giambi downplayed concerns about the health risks.

"Holy [cow], fatal?" Martinez said. "Wow. No way. There's no way that can happen."

Martinez coped with a gastrointestinal condition early in the 1998 season, an illness he believed was related to eating salmon in Seattle. He said his symptoms seemed similar to Giambi's. "I lost a lot of weight," he said.

Martinez, who muscled up to nearly 195 pounds after he suffered a shoulder injury in 2001, has since scaled back. He said he weighs 180 and hopes to maintain that weight.

A catch to recall
With the commissioner's office unlikely to mete out punishment for Saturday's brawl at Fenway Park until tomorrow at the earliest, the Sox plan to keep Andy Dominique on the roster to serve as the backup if Jason Varitek is suspended, as expected. Dominique, who was called up Sunday when Trot Nixon went on the disabled list with a Grade 2 tear in his left quadriceps, packed only enough clothes to last until Thursday, but will need to restock. The Sox have no intention of using their emergency catcher, Kevin Millar, to back up Doug Mirabelli.

Several Sox were struck by Alex Rodriguez's contention that he was a victim in the episode and that he planned to appeal if he were suspended. After Rodriguez was hit with a 1-and-1 pitch by Arroyo, he repeatedly spewed expletives at Arroyo. Then Varitek and A-Rod began jawing before Varitek shoved Rodriguez in the face, triggering the melee.

"His explanation is that 'Tek hit him first," Arroyo said. "But he was the one opening his mouth for no reason."

Arroyo said he never uttered a word to Rodriguez, and he continued to maintain that he had no intention of plunking Rodriguez.

"If I had hit him on the first pitch, I might have understood it," he said. "But on the third pitch? Plus, it was sinking inside. Why would I waste a good four-seam [fastball] away and a good four-seamer inside and then hit you?"

Arroyo ranks second in the league in hit batsmen (14), trailing only Tampa Bay's Victor Zambrano (16). But the vast majority of Arroyo's pitches that have hit batters have been misplaced breaking balls.

"Who knows, I might hit him again without meaning to," Arroyo said of Rodriguez.

Once Varitek completes his anticipated suspension, the Sox may opt to replace Dominique with Brian Daubach from Triple A Pawtucket to provide another lefthanded bat in Nixon's absence.

Reese takes it slowly
Pokey Reese continues to completely rest his strained right oblique and is not expected to return when he is eligible to come off the disabled list next week. The Sox hope he may be ready to rejoin them by mid-August . . . As much as the Sox could benefit from Scott Williamson returning this weekend if all goes well in his rehab outing tomorrow for Pawtucket in Syracuse, they have received an unexpected bonus from Ramiro Mendoza, who not long ago was all but considered a lost cause. Mendoza has allowed two runs over 7 2/3 innings in six appearances for a 2.35 ERA since he returned from the disabled list with an assortment of injuries. The only runs he has allowed came on a home run by Baltimore's Melvin Mora July 22 at Fenway Park. Francona said he did not plan to supplant his primary relievers --Mike Timlin, Alan Embree, and Keith Foulke -- with Mendoza. "But if he can pitch when we're down two [runs] and keep us right there, we're going to win some games," Francona said . . . The Sox are encouraged that Curt Schilling, who is scheduled to start tonight in the finale against the Orioles, has been able to pitch since the All-Star break without using the anesthetic Marcaine for a bone bruise in his right ankle . . . Kevin Youkilis, who has started only one of the last five games, could start tonight's game as the designated hitter, Francona said. With Bill Mueller at third base and first baseman Millar on a tear, the Sox are reluctant to give Youkilis his major league debut as a first baseman . . . In bashing the Orioles Monday, 12-5, the Sox scored 12 times in a game without a home run for the first time since a 12-3 victory over the Rangers at Fenway Park May 15, 2003. The Sox snapped their season-best streak of 11 straight games with at least one homer . . . The Sox tonight will try to score at least nine runs in a fourth straight game for the first time since Aug. 10-14, 1999 . . . Sunday night's Red Sox-Yankees telecast earned a 4.4 national rating, making it ESPN's highest-rated regular-season baseball telecast since the 1999 one-game playoff between the Mets and Reds earned a 5.3. In addition, ESPN estimates a viewing audience of 3,862,000 households, making it the network's most-viewed Sunday night baseball telecast. In Boston, the game drew an 18.8 rating, making it the top-rated regular-season Sox game of the cable era.

Bill Griffith of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. 

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