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Red Sox Notebook

Date is set for Lester’s return

Ortiz’s appeal could be settled

As Adrian Gonzalez could attest, even making first base was hard for Ben Zobrist and the Rays, who had only three hits. As Adrian Gonzalez could attest, even making first base was hard for Ben Zobrist and the Rays, who had only three hits. (J. Meric/Getty Images)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 18, 2011

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Jon Lester is scheduled to return to the Red Sox rotation July 26 against the Royals at Fenway Park.

The lefthander, who strained the lat muscle on his left side July 5, has a schedule that will lead up to his being activated off the disabled list.

He will throw in the bullpen in Baltimore today and do that for a longer period of time Wednesday. His final tuneup will be Friday or Saturday back in Boston.

Lester wanted to start Friday, the first day he would be eligible to come off the DL, but the team decided to give him three extra days.

“That’s good news for us. He must feel good,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “But we need to give him a chance where he can go out and not be stuck on 60 pitches.’’

Lester (10-4, 3.31 ERA) is critical to the team’s postseason hopes. The Sox appear to have dodged what could have been a serious blow.

“I think we caught it quick enough where he didn’t go out and throw another inning and do some damage,’’ Francona said.

Decision day? Based on a conversation with his agents and representatives of the Players Association, David Ortiz was under the impression that a decision from Major League Baseball on his appeal of a four-game suspension could be announced soon.

“I’ll probably hear something later on [last night] or [this] morning,’’ he said.

Orioles.com reported that Ortiz and Orioles pitcher Kevin Gregg would have their suspensions reduced to three games starting today. The two came to blows July 8 after Gregg threw inside on Ortiz three times.

The Sox and Orioles start a three-game series at Camden Yards tonight. Suspending Ortiz and Gregg now could help head off another confrontation.

Francona claimed the team has heard nothing about the matter.

“You’re kind of in the dark on those things,’’ he said. “It’s not up to us, it’s when they want to do it.’’

Francona indicated that he would use the suspension to get some position players what amounts to a half a day of rest by moving to DH. Kevin Youkilis would be a candidate.

What’s happening? With Carl Crawford set to come off the disabled list today, what happens with Josh Reddick?

Reddick was called up from Pawtucket June 18, a day after Crawford strained his left hamstring. Entering last night’s game against the Rays, Reddick was 20 of 53 (.377) with 10 extra-base hits and 13 RBIs in 20 games since being added to the roster.

Reddick has played predominantly left field since his recall. With Crawford back, Francona will have to be creative to find ways to use Reddick.

“If that’s considered a dilemma, I’d like to have a lot of them,’’ Francona said. “At some point, when he’s hot like that, the kid’s got to play. You’re not doing your team a service [otherwise]. He’s been terrific.

“To be honest with you, until we’re there, I don’t know how to make that work perfectly. We’re just going to try to win. Whoever we think can help us win, we’ll play.’’

One obvious solution would be to play Reddick in right field in place of J.D. Drew. Since the All-Star break in 2010, Drew is hitting .230 with a .322 on-base percentage. He has 16 home runs and 48 RBIs over 440 at-bats.

Reddick has 28 games of experience in right field in his career.

Francona has been loyal to Drew, believing he will get hot. Drew entered last night’s game hitting .228. The lefthanded-hitting Drew has not been starting against lefthanded pitchers. Committing to Reddick, who also hits lefthanded, would mean sending Drew to the bench.

Item of interest Nearly all of the Sox, even the soccer-phobic Francona, paid rapt attention to the Women’s World Cup final between the United States and Japan.

Tampa Bay pitcher David Price had the team put the game on the stadium scoreboard while he threw in the bullpen so he could keep track.

“What a game,’’ said Adrian Gonzalez after seeing the United States lose on penalty kicks.

Hands on a handout The Rays handed out Johnny Damon mini-bobblehead figurines. It depicted Damon in a wrestling ring. Jonathan Papelbon had his former teammate sign one . . . Jed Lowrie, who hasn’t played since June 16 because of a sore left shoulder, is expected to start swinging a bat this week . . . The Rays scratched right fielder Matt Joyce from the lineup because of a sore right knee, the result of a foul tip Saturday. Ben Zobrist moved from second base to right field and Sean Rodriguez was inserted as the second baseman.

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

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