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Red Sox Notebook

Francona refuses to close out Gagné

Red Sox second baseman Alex Cora's diving tag is too late to prevent Angel Jeff Mathis's double in the fourth inning. Red Sox second baseman Alex Cora's diving tag is too late to prevent Angel Jeff Mathis's double in the fourth inning. (BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF)

Manager Terry Francona said yesterday it would be "incredibly stupid" of him to change the way he's using Eric Gagné, despite repeated disastrous outings by the new Red Sox reliever.

Gagné, who threw 34 pitches Friday night while giving up three ninth-inning runs in a 7-5 loss to the Angels, was not an option to pitch last night, Francona said.

The pitcher, who left the clubhouse after that game before reporters entered, made himself scarce again yesterday.

In seven appearances since the trading-deadline deal from Texas, Gagné has allowed 14 hits and 10 earned runs in six innings, an earned run average of 15.00. Opposing hitters are batting .452 (14 for 31) against him, and with three walks, their on-base percentage is .500. He also has surrendered six doubles and a home run, leading to opponents slugging .742 against him.

Still, Francona insisted -- just as he did after Gagné's two late-inning batterings in Baltimore last weekend -- that it would be counterproductive to alter his role.

"I don't think using him differently helps," Francona said. "You put a guy who pitches on adrenaline in a blowout game, it's not going to help him. When a hitter goes through a slump, your good hitters, you stay with 'em. You might give 'em an occasional day off, and that's what we'll do with Gagné today, because he threw a lot of pitches. But you try to put the players in the best position that they can succeed, and if you run away from that, it's not going to work. It's kind of weird, when you're pitching late in the game, there's such a glare. K-Rod [Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels] came in and gave it up. Manny Delcarmen came in and gave it up, but you don't hear about it because of circumstances. If we don't score, all the questions [would be], 'What happened with Manny?'

"But because the game changes nobody even asked me. I don't know if that's [the media's] lack of not paying attention or just the way the game progressed and that's the obvious thing. So when you pitch late in the game, everything is more glaring.

"I guess my point is, we need to work hard to get this guy locked in as opposed to running away from him. That's how I felt last week. That's how I feel today."

Francona saw no merit in Gagné switching roles with Hideki Okajima, giving the eighth inning back to Okajima and having Gagné work the seventh.

"Do you think the seventh is not an important inning?" Francona said. "If a guy gives up four, and he gives them up in the seventh, what's the difference? It makes no sense to me.

"If you're talking about a guy pitching a mop-up inning to give him work, I understand the questioning, but flip-flopping the inning? The runs still count, and you're getting the guy further away from his comfort zone. I don't know if that makes sense. [Friday], we had it worked out where they could both . . . we had it worked out the way we wanted it, it just didn't work out."

When Gagné's high ERA was mentioned, Francona said, "That's going to change. If it doesn't, that's the way it goes.

"I guess, without being confrontational, my job is to do my job. His ERA in five or six outings is very high. If I were to -- and it seems like this is the way we're going with this, bench him -- that would be, in my opinion, incredibly stupid on my part."

Gagné has a history of elbow, back, and shoulder problems, resulting in multiple surgeries. When Francona was asked if the downturn in his performance since Texas set off warning bells, the manager answered, "If I thought his arm was sore, yeah. We probably spend more time on this than you guys do, and we should.

"I think you guys look at some numbers and results. [Friday] night, [Reggie] Willits had a 13-pitch at-bat. That took a lot out of him. Then you get to [Vladimir] Guerrero. As we've talked about, you can't throw him a pitch he doesn't think he can't hit, he smacks one.

"There are some things you have to keep a perspective on. Sometimes, like with a hitter, you take a borderline pitch and you don't get it. Suddenly you're in a bind. Those things happen. Sometimes when you need a break, you don't get a break."

Comings and goings
Bobby Kielty, the 31-year-old switch-hitting outfielder signed by the Sox Aug. 6 after his release by Oakland, was added to the roster yesterday, as his contract was purchased from Pawtucket, and Jacoby Ellsbury was returned to the PawSox after playing in the second game of Friday's doubleheader. Ellsbury was hitless in three at-bats but walked and scored a run in Boston's eighth-inning rally. Kielty is much better suited to the role of backup outfielder, Francona said, than his predecessor, Wily Mo Peña, who last night started in left field for Washington, going 1 for 4, with a walk and two runs in the Nationals' 7-4 loss to the Mets. Peña was traded to Washington the day before for a player to be named. That player, according to a well-placed source with direct knowledge of the deal, is expected to be Chris Carter, a slugging, lefthanded-hitting first baseman who is still playing in Arizona's farm system, which means a transaction between the Nationals and Diamondbacks is pending.

Kielty batted .237 in 10 games with the PawSox, with two home runs. His PawSox debut, after being idle for almost three weeks, was anything but auspicious: Kielty struck out five times in six at-bats in a doubleheader. "Funny, I was lying in bed afterward, thinking that may have been my worst day in baseball," he said. "I don't think I've ever struck out five times in a game." But he has regained his stroke, he said ("it feels pretty good") and Francona said he'll start this afternoon against lefthander Joe Saunders and will be in the lineup again tomorrow against Devil Rays lefthander Scott Kazmir.

"Wily Mo, as we talked about, is a young player trying to get better," Francona said. "He wants the ABs. He needs the ABs. We needed to give him that. We did the best we could.

"Kielty is a veteran guy, like [Eric] Hinske, [Alex] Cora, who understand their role and are able to stay prepared and can handle frustration, because there's a ton of it, especially when you're a bench player."

Because how you handle frustration goes a long way toward not only keeping your sanity, but helping the ball club win."

Conigliaro honored
Former Sox star Tony Conigliaro was honored in pregame ceremonies on the 40th anniversary of his beaning by Angels pitcher Jack Hamilton. Groundskeeper Dave Mellor cut a circled No. 25, Conigliaro's number, in right field . . . Francona confirmed that Julian Tavarez will start this afternoon, which pushes back Tim Wakefield to pitch the opener against the Devil Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he is unbeaten in eight career decisions. Francona said Tavarez was slotted there primarily to give the starters an extra day of rest. It also has the effect of lining up Daisuke Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, and Curt Schilling to face the Yankees at the end of the month, though Francona downplayed that as a factor in his decision . . . Catcher Kevin Cash, called up to replace the disabled Doug Mirabelli, will start today and tomorrow and thus will draw the assignment of catching Wakefield. Cash worked with Wakefield in side sessions in spring training and has caught PawSox knuckleballers Charlie Zink and John Barnes . . . J.D. Drew's single in the fifth inning was the 1,000th hit of his career. . . . Jason Varitek started last night even though he caught 17 innings Friday, the most innings he has ever caught in a doubleheader . . . Sox senior adviser Jeremy Kapstein threw out the ceremonial first pitch last night on Rhode Island Day. Kapstein, who originally is from Providence, was introduced as Rhode Island's "favorite son."

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