NEW YORK - Jonathan Papelbon reached into the back of his locker. He grabbed a bottle of One A Day vitamins from a shelf, quickly swallowing a pair.
"You always want to do your best to be able to stay healthy throughout the entire season and be there in the end," Papelbon said of the exhaustion he felt at the conclusion of the World Series. "Last year was a real good kind of comparison to this year, what I'm going to be able to need to do. Just be a little bit better for the next year. Just like little things here and there. Whether it's getting my sleep at night or eating right. Just little things like that go a long way - or making sure I get all my workouts in."
To that end, the Red Sox continue to be cautious with him. But it's a different kind of caution than they used last season, at least in terms of monitoring the length of his outings. Three of his six appearances this season have gone longer than an inning, all four outs. Last season, when the team was extremely vigilant about protecting Papelbon's right shoulder, given his shortened 2006 season, he pitched more than an inning just four times.
The protection hasn't stopped. There have been a few games this season when Papelbon hasn't been available, as on Sunday night after he pitched following a rain delay Saturday, and on Tuesday night after he got three outs Monday.
"It's tough when you have a night off and you know you want to be out there, 'cause that's what your job calls for, that's what I'm supposed to do," Papelbon said. "You know, it's a tough pill to swallow. I'm going to be dead honest sometimes. But as long as I can stay focused on what my job is, whether I'm in there or not in there, and do my job the best that I can do, that's all that I can control. I've just got to be ready whenever I'm called on."
Whenever he's been called on, Papelbon has been dominant, getting strikeouts for 14 of his 21 total outs, including 13 of his last 16. He has allowed just one run, March 25 against Oakland, and has 29 2/3 career scoreless innings in April.
"To be honest, I actually feel a lot better this year at this time than I did last year," he said. "Just 'cause of the simple fact of that experience. You know what to expect. You know what to base your day upon every day. I think that's the biggest key for me is learning that. Every year, hopefully, I'll be able to get better and better and better. It's all about refining each year as you go. That's what I'm trying to do."
Youkilis stubs toeKevin Youkilis was removed after the eighth inning after fouling a ball off his left foot on a strikeout in the sixth.
X-rays were negative, and Youkilis was listed as day to day with a bruised left big toe. "I did it before in spring training, no one even knew about it," Youkilis said, adding he broke the toe and played two days later. "I'll be able to play. Just, hopefully, it feels better in the morning, or else I'm going to sit out for a little period of time. If I'm not moving around too well, I can't help this team win."
He said the toe began throbbing as he stayed out in the field, although he continued to play two more innings.
With Mike Lowell and Alex Cora (strained right elbow) already on the disabled list, Jed Lowrie would likely be the choice at third base.
Joe Thurston has played just about every position in the minors, though he has not played third in his brief (55-game) major league career. Thurston, a former prospect with the Dodgers, got the call just before midnight Tuesday and joined the team yesterday from Indianapolis, where Pawtucket had been playing.
"To finally have someone really recognize the hard work that I've put in [is great]," said Thurston.