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As Martinez sits, Varitek ready to step up

Sign of the times: Dustin Pedroia, one of a number of injured Red Sox, watches batting practice from the dugout, crutches close at hand. Sign of the times: Dustin Pedroia, one of a number of injured Red Sox, watches batting practice from the dugout, crutches close at hand. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / June 30, 2010

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Victor Martinez left San Francisco Sunday with the belief that the fractured bone in his left thumb would not require a stint on the disabled list. But by Monday, he knew that was unrealistic.

With his thumb encased in a plastic splint, Martinez could not get his hand in his glove or properly grip a bat.

“There’s pain,’’ Martinez said. “It is frustrating and I was disappointed. But I have to take it day by day now.’’

The Red Sox believe Martinez will be ready to play July 15, the first day after the All-Star break.

“We think at least as of now, that we’re not going to be without Victor for too long,’’ general manager Theo Epstein said. “We think we have a chance to get him back right at the start of the second half. You’re looking at maybe 11 games, maybe two or three for the backup.’’

Epstein said he had no plans to pursue a trade for a catcher as a result. Jason Varitek, a starter until Martinez’s acquisition last year, will start the majority of the games, a notion manager Terry Francona called “comforting.’’

Gustavo Molina, who was called up from Triple A Pawtucket, will be Varitek’s backup. His first duty yesterday was to catch Tim Wakefield in the bullpen.

It went well and Molina is slated to be in the lineup Friday when Wakefield faces the Orioles. Varitek, while good buddies with Wakefield, has not had much success catching his knuckleball.

Molina has experience with the unpredictable pitch, having caught knuckleballer Charlie Haeger while both were prospects in the White Sox system from 2004-07.

Molina’s strategy?

“See the ball all the time until it gets inside the glove,’’ he said. “Don’t try too much.’’

Buchholz hopeful
Clay Buchholz, who strained his lower left hamstring running the bases in Saturday’s game, will not start as scheduled tomorrow night. But the Sox hope he will be ready to face the Rays Monday in Florida.

Buchholz played catch yesterday and said his leg felt good.

“When I step, I don’t even feel that anymore,’’ he said. “There’s more soreness from icing and getting a massage.’’

Francona said the team would have to make a roster move if Buchholz is unable to pitch by Tuesday, as that would be the next time the fifth spot in the rotation is needed.

Before then, Buchholz will throw in the bullpen at least twice and go through some defensive drills to ensure that his leg is sound.

“I think I’ll be fine,’’ he said.

Hermida on mend
Jeremy Hermida, who has been out with rib fractures since June 5, hit balls flipped to him in the batting cage for the first time since suffering the injury. He will repeat that drill for a few days before moving onto the field for batting practice.

Hermida also is doing outfield drills and running the bases.

“We’ll see how it feels, I’ll increase the workload on it and we’ll go from there,’’ he said. “As long as it’s not getting worse from what I do, I’ll swing again [tomorrow]. . . . I’m trying to push it forward.’’

Lowrie to Lowell
Jed Lowrie, remember him? He is scheduled to start a rehab assignment with Single A Lowell Saturday. The infielder has been on the disabled list all season with mononucleosis.

The rehab assignment can last as long as 20 days. If Lowrie shows he can play, he could become an option at second base.

“He fits in if he can get healthy and he’s making a lot of strides,’’ Epstein said. “There’s always been a sense of urgency about this because he’s a good player and he needs to get back and resume his career. There’s even more urgency to it now given the needs we have at the big league level.’’

Westmoreland visits
Former top prospect Ryan Westmoreland, who had brain surgery in March, watched batting practice from the field and chatted with several players, including his close friend Daniel Nava.

The support, Westmoreland said, has helped his recovery.

“It’s been amazing. I know a lot of the guys, not necessarily in the big leagues,’’ he said. “I’m getting e-mails and texts from so many minor leaguers. It’s great to know they’re thinking about me.’’

Westmoreland needed assistance to negotiate the dugout steps and he walks with the aid of a cane. But he is throwing a baseball as part of his rehabilitation exercises and believes he will one day return to the game.

“Just being around the field, to come here and be around the game, it’s special,’’ he said. “I know I’m closer and every time I get to do something more, it’s one step closer to my goal.’’

The Pedroia plan
Dustin Pedroia, on the disabled list with a broken bone in his left foot, will remain on crutches for 2-3 weeks. Doctors then will administer another set of tests to assess how he has healed. If he is cleared, he will start the rehab process, which will take another 2-3 weeks . . . Jacoby Ellsbury has been away from the team since June 9, recovering from rib fractures at a training center in Arizona. Epstein said there is no timetable for his return. “We’re getting closer and closer to the time when we see him start to ramp up his physical activities and baseball activities and contemplate a rehab assignment,’’ the GM said . . . New infielder Eric Patterson is 22 of 24 in stolen base attempts in his career and can provide versatility as a pinch runner.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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