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Red Sox notebook

Pedroia does a little extra

Second baseman feasts at the plate

Dustin Pedroia slides headfirst for a triple, one of his four extra-base hits. Dustin Pedroia slides headfirst for a triple, one of his four extra-base hits. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Gordon Edes and Amalie Benjamin
Globe Staff / July 3, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - A home run, a triple, a double, all before the sixth inning. Another double, driving in a run in the eighth. Was Dustin Pedroia bent on beating the Tampa Bay Rays last night by himself?

"He tried," manager Terry Francona said.

Pedroia couldn't do it alone, but made history in the effort, becoming the first Sox second baseman to collect four extra-base hits in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Had he merely singled in his last at-bat, he would have become the first Sox player since John Valentin in 1996 to hit for the cycle.

"I was trying to go up there and hit a ball hard those last two times I got up," said Pedroia, who also lined out in the sixth. "When I got back after I hit the double, guys were joking, 'You should have fallen down or something.' But I just play the game."

Fifteen second basemen have had four extra-base hits in a game since 1956, the last Marcus Giles, who was playing for Atlanta when he hit four doubles July 27, 2003, against the Montreal Expos. The last American League second baseman with four extra-base hits in a game was Carlos Baerga, who had three doubles and a triple for the Indians Sept. 20, 1990, against the Yankees.

Pedroia has a 10-game hitting streak in which he is batting .568 (25 for 44) to raise his average from .274 to .311. The last Sox batter with four extra-base hits in a game was catcher Jason Varitek, who hit two home runs and two doubles July 4, 2003.

Nothing doing

Manny Ramírez, who began the season with a .311 career average and 25 home runs at Tropicana Field, went 0 for 5 and was 0 for 11 in the series, with five strikeouts.

Ramírez, who homered and singled in Boston's last game in Houston, has not hit safely since his shoving incident involving traveling secretary Jack McCormick was reported Sunday night by the Providence Journal. The club has still not announced whether it has taken any disciplinary action against the slugger.

Ramírez is batting just .120 (3 for 25) at the Trop this season.

Varitek slumping

Varitek is just 3 for 48 (.063) in his last 15 games after last night's 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. His average has plummeted from .295 to .216 in 30 games, as he has batted just .118 (12 for 102) in that stretch. And while he was batting .261 from the right side entering last night, Kazmir had been tough on him, holding him to a .214 average (6 for 28 with an RBI).

Varitek struck out in his first at-bat last night, but walked in the third and was at the plate in the fifth when Kazmir uncorked a wild pitch to score J.D. Drew after having given Kevin Youkilis an intentional walk. Varitek struck out in the seventh and ninth.

With the Sox playing tomorrow afternoon after a night game, Francona may try to give Varitek another breather, though Kevin Cash (4 for 41, .098, in his last 15 games) has not fared any better at the plate. Sox catchers came into last night's game batting a collective .224 (68 for 304), the second-lowest average in the American League at that position, ahead of only the Angels (.216).

Varitek's value far transcends his offensive contribution, but his struggles are magnified by the absence of David Ortiz. If Ortiz was playing, Francona said, he could drop Varitek further in the order.

"I absolutely stunk, there's no two ways about it," Varitek said after Tuesday's loss. "I'll have to find a way; it's got to be me."

The Sox accelerated Ortiz's schedule a bit; he took soft toss each of the last two days. "I never thought I was going to have such a hard time hitting soft toss," Ortiz said, "but at the end, I took like 25 swings, and I started catching up."

Ortiz said he hopes he might be able to step into the cage next week.

"It's been hard for me since Day 1," said Ortiz, who has not played since May 31. "I'm not used to this.

"Every day I feel better. Every day I discover something new, but in a good way, you know what I mean? My problem might be that because I swing so hard, I've got to be 100 percent to play, Otherwise, I can have a setback and I don't think this team needs that."

Star quality

Five members of the Pawtucket Red Sox were selected to play for the International League in the Triple A All-Star Game: second baseman Joe Thurston, who is leading the league in hitting (.324), outfielder Jeff Bailey, designated hitter Chris Carter, outfielder Jonathan Van Every, and knuckleballer Charlie Zink. The game is in Louisville, Ky., July 16, the day after the big league game, and will be televised on ESPN2.

The PawSox own the best record in the league, 55-33. They've never had this many players selected, and one deserving candidate, pitcher David Pauley, who leads the league with 10 wins, was not chosen.

Meanwhile, in Portland, three Sea Dogs were named Eastern League All-Stars: pitcher Michael Bowden, outfielder Bubba Bell, and outfielder Jeff Corsaletti. The game is scheduled for July 15 in Manchester, N.H.

Buchholz in a groove

Justin Masterson threw a side session and is listed as the Sox' probable starting pitcher Saturday against the Yankees. Clay Buchholz (4-0, 0.40 ERA in his last four starts for Pawtucket) loomed as a possibility, but so far, the Sox have not indicated any intention of promoting him this weekend. Buchholz has faced the Yankees twice this season. After holding them to four hits and a run in six innings at Fenway Park April 11, he was knocked around for seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings five days later in the Bronx . . . Top draft pick Casey Kelly, who worked out at Fenway Park Tuesday and doubled off the Monster in an intrasquad game, visited during batting practice yesterday. Kelly has signed a letter of intent to play quarterback at the University of Tennessee, but he is from a baseball family - his father, Pat, is a former catcher and currently manages Cincinnati's team in the Gulf Coast League - and several big league scouts predicted he will eventually sign with the Sox. Most teams project Kelly as a pitcher, but he also played shortstop at Sarasota (Fla.) High and after a slow start hit very well at the end of the season. He expressed a preference for playing every day but said he was open to pitching. "That's part of the negotiations," he said . . . Bobby Kielty, who played two games for short-season Single A Lowell on a rehab assignment, rejoined Pawtucket last night and had two hits in five at-bats while playing right field. Kielty had been out with a strained oblique . . . Mike Timlin will be activated for tonight's game in New York. To make room, the Sox optioned righthander Chris Smith to Pawtucket . . . Tim Wakefield has pitched seven or more innings while allowing three or fewer runs in seven straight starts. That's the longest such streak for a Sox pitcher since Pedro Martínez had 11 straight in 2000. Wakefield's record in that span is 2-3.

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