THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Red Sox Notebook

Lineup is starting to fall in order ... sort of

Expect Dustin Pedroia to be hitting in the No. 2 hole when the games get real for the Sox. Expect Dustin Pedroia to be hitting in the No. 2 hole when the games get real for the Sox. (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / March 20, 2011

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BRADENTON, Fla. — It’s looking as if Jacoby Ellsbury will be the Red Sox leadoff hitter, with the possibility that he could bat lower on Opening Day because Texas is starting tough lefty C.J. Wilson.

Manager Terry Francona expressed that sentiment yesterday, and it wasn’t a surprise, considering that Ellsbury is the team’s leading spring hitter with a .429 average.

Dustin Pedroia and Carl Crawford appear to be next in the order, but beyond that, there was uncertainty in Francona’s voice.

“I don’t know,’’ said the manager. “I guess I probably know down deep what I think’s right. Jacoby’s been swinging the bat so well, I’d really like to lead him off.

“The hard thing is, C.J. Wilson is pitching Opening Day and he’s so tough on lefties. That’s the one thing that’s kind of been messing with me a little bit.’’

Francona is still up in the air on Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis in the fourth and fifth holes (“Youk and Gonzy are probably interchangeable’’).

If Gonzalez hits fifth, David Ortiz would be sixth and J.D. Drew seventh, which would create a feast for opposing lefty situational relievers, with three lefties in a row.

“I don’t know,’’ said Francona. “We’ll see. These next 10 days, you’ll see our lineup in some home games.’’

Mixed results Josh Beckett, who worked 4 2/3 innings in a 7-5 loss to the Pirates yesterday, will get two more tuneups before the season, one in Florida and another in Houston. Yesterday he allowed five runs but just one earned as the Sox made two major errors behind him. Beckett said he had a terrible curveball but a good changeup and fastball, lamenting “The last two starts, that’s been the glaring issue. I have to cut out the big inning.’’ Beckett has been the butt of jokes from teammates because he has allowed hits to pitchers in two consecutive starts against the Pirates. Last time, it was Brad Lincoln, and this time, starter Kevin Correia went 2 for 2 against him, including a two-run single in the fourth inning.

Catch this Daniel Nava made a great catch at the left field wall in the first inning, robbing Andrew McCutchen and then throwing a strike to cutoff man Pedroia, who doubled off Neal Walker at first base. Nava said he has worked hard at improving his defense. Asked if it feels better to get a hit or make a play like that, Nava said, “In that situation, the defensive play, no doubt. I’ve been working on being more mindful of the center fielder and adjusting to what he’s going to do. On that one, I just have to time the leap. I never thought we had a chance at the runner, but the play worked well.’’ . . . Francona said staff assistant Ino Guerrero, who struck Beckett in the head with a fungo earlier in camp, was taken to the hospital after having an allergic reaction to a nerve-block shot . . . Hideki Okajima struck out two of three batters he faced for Greenville at minor league camp.

Stick around Francona is keeping infielders Nate Spears and Drew Sutton in camp until the end even though they won’t make the team. He is impressed with them. Spears, said Francona, “plays everywhere, and he’s like the best kid ever.’’ Of Sutton, he said, “He plays all over the field and he’s getting a ton of at-bats. He’s really starting to swing the bat. Our biggest worry with guys like that is they don’t get enough playing time, and then when the season starts, they’re not ready to play. But they’re getting a ton of at-bats.’’ Sutton is on fire: 2 for 2 yesterday to improve his spring average to .341 . . . Alfredo Aceves allowed three hits and two runs (both in the seventh inning). “He just got a couple of balls up,’’ said Francona . . . Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw wildly to third base, allowing a run to score, when he got his feet tangled. The other bad error behind Beckett was when Spears let a routine grounder eat him up.

Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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