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Lugo not likely in leading role

Red Sox manager Terry Francona said he is not entertaining the thought of restoring Julio Lugo to the top of the lineup, even though Lugo is batting .500 (15 for 30) in an eight-game hitting streak, including three three-hit games. Last night in a 6-5 loss to the Royals, Lugo had a bases-loaded, two-run double while batting in the ninth spot. He also flied to center with Coco Crisp on third with the potential tying run to end the eighth.

For now, Francona said before the game, J.D. Drew will remain at the top of the order, though Drew, who came out of Friday's game in the third inning with tightness in his right hamstring and sat out games Saturday and Sunday, is just 4 for 29 in his last eight games.

"I'd like to let [Lugo] keep going, I think," Francona said. "Again, if somebody pulls a [hamstring], he'll be there tomorrow. There's nothing wrong with having speed at the bottom, and he has been swinging the bat very well. But as far as the batting order goes, I'm actually fairly comfortable where we're at right now. It's more of a matter of us swinging the bats than me putting the lineup in a hat and shuffling it."

Drew lined out with the bases loaded in the fourth last night, a run scoring on what went in the books as a sacrifice fly. But otherwise, he went 0 for 4 and heard boos when he grounded out in the ninth.

"It's manageable, but it's definitely grabbing a little bit," Drew said of the hamstring.

Asked if it's impacting him at the plate, he said, "No, I feel like . . . what do you want me . . . I've hit five bullets right at people. I hit a bullet tonight. There's not a whole lot to change. I've had some at-bats where they've made good pitches on me, but I've also had at-bats where I've squared the ball up and put great swings on it. In a series I had one hit, I could have had six. That's a very simple way of looking at it."

Last night was Drew's 13th start in the leadoff spot. The team is 7-6 when he is at the top of the order. But he had just one RBI this month until his sacrifice fly.

Drew hit two home runs in a 10-3 win in Arizona June 8, but in 30 games since, he has had just two more home runs in 104 at-bats (124 plate appearances).

Japan report denied
Red Sox officials disputed published reports in Japan that the team will open the 2008 season in Tokyo, saying it is unlikely . . . Jason Varitek has thrown out two runners in a game twice this season. Varitek, who caught Alex Gordon to end the fifth and pinch runner Esteban German in the seventh last night, also threw out two July 8 in Detroit . . . Mike Timlin retired all seven batters he faced and has pitched 13 2/3 scoreless innings in his last nine appearances . . . Manny Delcarmen struck out two in the eighth, his eighth straight scoreless appearance (9 2/3 innings), while Jonathan Papelbon had two K's in the ninth.

Lester allows three
Lefthander Jon Lester, pitching in Pawtucket, gave up three runs on seven hits and three walks in seven innings against Ottawa last night and left with a 5-3 lead in a game the PawSox won, 9-4. Lester threw 94 pitches, 60 for strikes. He struck out just three . . . Playing long toss in the rain early yesterday afternoon was rehabbing righthander Matt Clement, who also long-tossed Monday with assistant trainer Mike Reinold . . . Third baseman Mike Lowell, who mishandled Mark Teahen's grounder in the fifth inning, the ball bouncing off his glove, matched his career high for errors. Lowell made 14 errors in 159 games for Florida in 2002. In each of his last two seasons, he made six errors at third base . . . Nick Hagadone, the 6-foot-5-inch lefthander from the University of Washington who was the Sox' No. 1 pick in the June amateur draft, struck out the first batter he faced in his professional debut in Lowell last night. He proceeded to give up six straight hits, the last a three-run home run by Joseph Nowicki in a five-run first for the Aberdeen IronBirds, the short-season Single A affiliate of the Orioles. Hagadone finished the inning, recorded one out in the second, then was lifted after issuing a walk.

Not for sale
Scratch Brad Lidge from the list of potential targets for a Sox trade by the deadline. Houston Astros owner Drayton McLane said the club will not move Lidge. "I see no reason we should even consider it," McLane told reporters in Washington. "He's been one of the best closers in baseball. He's had some health problems, but we feel that's behind him. We won't even consider it." . . . The Sox are looking for a righthanded-hitting outfielder who can play center, as the team actively seeks to deal Wily Mo Peña. Peña, who struck out twice in Tuesday's 9-3 loss, is batting .146 (6 for 41) in his last 19 games, and has struck out 12 times in his last 17 at-bats. He has just one RBI in his last 17 games, has just one hit in nine at-bats as a pinch hitter, and while the Sox still acknowledge the raw potential, there is substantial evidence they have concluded he is inadequate for the role they need. It's not enough that the Sox pick up a righthanded bat; they need someone who also can play center, which should put to rest recent speculation about reacquiring Kevin Millar . . . The Maniacal One, Chuck Waseleski, notes that Monday's 4-0 win over the Royals represented only the second time this season that the Sox have not had an at-bat with runners in scoring position. The other time was April 11 . . . Since hitting home runs against Cleveland May 28-29, Kevin Youkilis has one home run in his last 123 at-bats (151 plate appearances).

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