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Red Sox notebook

Hoping he’s involved in a rally

Youkilis finds out today if he’s Star

Sox starter Tim Wakefield is contemplative as the Rays’ Evan Longoria rounds the bases after hitting a fourth-inning homer. Sox starter Tim Wakefield is contemplative as the Rays’ Evan Longoria rounds the bases after hitting a fourth-inning homer. (Chris O’Meara/Associated Press)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 8, 2010

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Kevin Youkilis was back in the Red Sox’ lineup last night, the unusual cramp in his right ankle that forced him to leave Tuesday’s game in the fourth inning having passed.

Now, Youkilis will learn today whether he is headed for the All-Star Game.

Youkilis and Nick Swisher of the Yankees were in a virtual dead heat to claim the final spot on the American League roster, according to Major League Baseball. The online voting ends at 4 p.m. today, with the winner announced shortly after.

Swisher’s lead on Youkilis was less than 1 percent, with Paul Konerko of the White Sox, Michael Young of the Rangers, and Delmon Young of the Twins trailing.

The Red Sox and Yankees mounted aggressive campaigns for their respective players. The Yankees enlisted a number of celebrities to stump for Swisher on Twitter, including Jessica Alba, Ivanka Trump, New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg (once a Red Sox fan), and NBA star Baron Davis.

The Red Sox countered with e-mails to fans, along with television and radio announcements.

Ellsbury en route
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is expected to join the team in Toronto tomorrow, according to manager Terry Francona.

Ellsbury has been away from the team since June 4, receiving treatment at the Athletes’ Performance training center near his home in Arizona. The 26-year-old has been on the disabled list for much of the season with fractured ribs.

The plan is for Ellsbury to be examined by the medical staff tomorrow, work out with the team for a few days, then report to the Red Sox complex in Fort Myers Monday to continue his rehabilitation.

“We’re kind of excited to see where he’s at,’’ Francona said. “We wanted to get our eyes on him before we turned him loose.’’

Francona did not know to what extent Ellsbury is able to engage in baseball activities, such as throwing, running, and swinging a bat. He has played in only three games since April 11.

There is no timetable for Ellsbury to start a minor league rehabilitation assignment. Given his slow progress, it seems unlikely Ellsbury would return to the major league roster before mid-August.

Another move
The Sox shuffled their roster again, purchasing the contract of first baseman Ryan Shealy from Triple A Pawtucket and designating infielder Niuman Romero for assignment.

The 30-year-old Shealy spent parts of four seasons (2005-08) with the Rockies and Royals, hitting .271 with 19 homers and 94 RBIs. He signed a minor league contract with the Rays over the winter, but opted out in June to sign with the Red Sox.

He played 18 games at Pawtucket, hitting .246 with two home runs.

Shealy will become the backup first baseman, a player the Sox have lacked since Mike Lowell went on the DL June 24.

“Hopefully I’ll fit in wherever I can, drive in some runs if given the opportunity,’’ Shealy said. “Just be myself and be productive and when called upon, do my job.’’

Shealy missed the 2009 season after undergoing microfracture surgery on his right knee.

“I was just running into second base and I felt something and the next day it was all swollen up. That shut me down,’’ he said. “This year I’ve been playing catch-up trying to get back to where I was a couple of years ago. So far it feels good. No complaints.’’

Romero was thrust into the cleanup spot Tuesday when Youkilis left the game. He went 0 for 4 and stranded six runners.

Varitek works out
Jason Varitek may have a broken bone in his right foot, but that didn’t keep him from working out on the field four hours before the game. While wearing a protective plastic boot, Varitek worked on blocking balls in the dirt with catching instructor Gary Tuck. He then threw from one knee . . . Clay Buchholz threw 44 pitches in the bullpen, his first such work since straining his lower left hamstring June 26. The tentative plan is for him to start against Texas at Fenway Park July 16. As a precaution, the Sox are keeping Felix Doubront on the roster in case Buchholz has a setback. Doubront started in his place Tuesday. Francona said the team wanted to continue using Doubront as a starter rather than move him into the bullpen. But Francona voiced support of the idea of moving Pawtucket righthander Michael Bowden to the bullpen, saying in-house relief options were preferable to the “crapshoot’’ of a trade. “There’s a lot to like about Michael,’’ he said. “He hasn’t [pitched in relief] too much. But he’s really throwing the ball well. It has a chance to be a helpful thing for the big league team.’’ . . . Bowden pitched his first game in relief for the PawSox last night, throwing two scoreless innings. He allowed one hit and struck out one in a 4-2 victory over Lehigh Valley. . . . The Red Sox have lost eight of their last 11 games on the road . . . David Ortiz’s double in the sixth inning was the 400th of his career.

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

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