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Lester the spottier starter

So it's Gabbard who will fill in

SEATTLE -- While Kason Gabbard was preparing to make a start in the place he made his big-league debut last season, Washington native son Jon Lester was enduring one of the worst starts of his minor league career last night in Louisville, Ky.

Lester, passed over when the Red Sox were looking for someone to take Curt Schilling's place in the rotation after the righthander went on the disabled list, lasted just 4 1/3 innings, giving up eight earned runs on nine hits for Pawtucket in a 12-7 loss. Lester faced 26 batters and threw 100 pitches, 57 for strikes. He walked four and struck out four. His earned run average jumped from 2.49 to 3.78.

The easy conclusion to draw, of course, is that Lester was deflated by the fact that he had not been summoned by the big club. But he has not been dominating enough in recent starts for the PawSox to force Boston's hand, which was the admonition he'd received from general manager Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona, and pitching coach John Farrell when they met with him at the end of his rehab assignment and he was optioned to Pawtucket.

Gabbard's performance in Pawtucket should underscore the fact that it is no fluke he is facing the Mariners tonight. He gave up two earned runs in each of his last four starts for the PawSox and overall he is 7-2 with a 3.24 ERA. Gabbard, who has had four elbow surgeries and was winless in his first three years in pro ball, was the ninth rookie pitcher summoned by the Sox last year and took the loss in a 5-2 defeat July 22 against the Mariners. He was lifted in the sixth inning of a 2-2 game but a third run was charged to him.

On May 20 this season, Gabbard was called up to make a start with Josh Beckett sidelined with a skin tear on his middle finger . He was charged with two earned runs in five innings plus, and was credited with the win in a 6-3 victory over the Braves. He was given no time to bask in the moment, however, as he was shipped out after the game to make room for a reliever, Manny Delcarmen.

"He looked like a crafty lefty, like a veteran," Sox shortstop Alex Cora said after that start. "He stayed focused and did a great job. It's not easy, especially if it's a one- shot [deal] to just come here and be a pro knowing the situation.

"At the end of the year, if he comes back, we know we can count on him. If he doesn't, you look back and he had a great start against the Braves and helped us win the series and keep this thing rolling."

Gabbard was not on the premises last night. Since he had not been officially activated, he stayed away from the ballpark (unless he bought a ticket and slipped in incognito).

To make room for Gabbard on the roster, the Sox sent outfielder David Murphy back to Pawtucket after last night's game. Murphy was announced as a pinch hitter for Julio Lugo in the eighth, marking his third appearance since joining the team Friday night in San Diego. He had his first big-league triple Saturday.

While the Sox have spoken with the Chicago White Sox about the availability of lefthander Mark Buehrle -- special assignment scout Allard Baird has been in Chicago and watched Buehrle pitch -- they are not close to making a deal, according to team sources. The Sox have no interest in parting with prospects such as outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and pitcher Clay Buchholz, the types of prospects White Sox GM Kenny Williams almost certainly would seek in return.

Word of Boston's interest in Buehrle is almost certain to accelerate the interest of other teams in need of pitching, and the Sox expect both the Yankees and Mets to be serious bidders.

Catching up
Former Sox catcher Bill Haselman, a Washington native, was a pregame visitor to the Boston dugout. Haselman, who last season was on Francona's staff as first base coach, is working for Merrill Lynch and has nearly completed his broker's license. "I miss baseball a lot," he said. "I miss playing most, and the camaraderie." The Sox offered Haselman a position managing in the minor leagues, and while he said he was sorely tempted, he did not want to spend that much time away from his family. He is working on Mariners radio, on the postgame show, fielding calls from listeners . . . The Sox finished interleague play with a record of 12-6, behind only the Angels and Tigers (each 14-4) among AL teams who beat up on their NL brethren. The Sox are 28-8 (.778) against NL teams since the start of 2006, a record surpassed only by the Tigers (29-7, .806) . . . The Sox came into last night's game having made just one error in their last 10 games, none in their last five. But the streak ended when Julian Tavarez threw away a bunt in the five-run fifth. Coco Crisp has gone 330 chances without an error, most ever for a Sox center fielder, and it has been 120 games since his lone error with the club, on July 21, 2006 . . . Daisuke goes musical: EMI Music Marketing is releasing an album, "Music from the Mound," featuring a compilation of Daisuke Matsuzaka's favorite songs from various American, Japanese, and English artists. There's a new track on the album, "Gyro Ball," which includes guest performances from former J. Geils harmonica player Magic Dick, former Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, and NESN announcers Don Orsillo and Jerry Remy. The album's release is scheduled for July 18, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Red Sox Foundation. FYI, the song they play for Matsuzaka at Fenway is "Second Coming," by Juelz Santana.

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com.

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