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Beckett to throw off mound

Carl Crawford had a rare hit against the Rays, but then was forced at second by Sean Rodriguez. Carl Crawford had a rare hit against the Rays, but then was forced at second by Sean Rodriguez. (J. Meric/Getty Images)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / September 12, 2011

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - There was a sliver of good news as the Red Sox slunk out of Tropicana Field yesterday after being swept by the Rays.

Josh Beckett will report to Fenway Park today and throw off the bullpen mound. In theory, that would line him up to start Thursday or Friday.

Beckett has been out since last Monday, when he sprained his right ankle in the fourth inning in Toronto. His return would be a huge boost.

Beckett is hoping to start one of the games against the Rays, a series that starts Thursday.

“We’ll see. I don’t know. I think that might be a little ambitious but I think he wants to do it, which is a good sign,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “We’ll see how he feels.’’

Clay Buchholz took another step forward in his throwing program, doing some long toss before the game then throwing all of his pitches from flat ground 60 feet away.

“Everything felt fine,’’ he said. “Threw everything. It felt good.’’

But the Sox are being cautious with Buchholz as he returns from a stress fracture in his back. Instead of getting on the mound, Buchholz will remain in the outfield when he throws tomorrow. Only then might he take the mound.

Haunting memories Of the players who were with the Red Sox on Sept. 11, 2001, only Jason Varitek and Tim Wakefield remain on the roster.

The Sox were in New York the weekend before the terrorist attacks and were in Florida at the time, preparing for a series against the Rays. The team traveled back to Boston via train, all flights having been grounded.

“It took us 36 hours all told to get back,’’ Wakefield said. “Everybody was in shock.’’

The Sox didn’t play again until Sept. 18. Wakefield believes that baseball helped people get back to some degree of normalcy.

“I think it helped a lot. It really did,’’ he said. “For us to get to playing within a week was huge for us. It happened on a Tuesday and we were back playing the next Monday. It was sad, but I think it was important to show as a nation that we weren’t afraid.’’

The Sox had American flags on their jerseys and caps yesterday and watched the pregame ceremonies as the Rays recognized members of the Armed Forces along with local first responders.

“It’s sad that it took a drastic event like that 10 years ago to start honoring our soldiers coming back,’’ Wakefield said. “There’s a reason for everything. I’m very proud to be able to stand and salute or clap for those people who are at the games.’’

Wakefield remembers feeling goose bumps watching President George W. Bush throw out the first pitch at the World Series at Yankee Stadium that year.

Wakefield also has vivid memories of seeing the Space Shuttle Challenger explode in 1986. He was at the home of his parents in Melbourne, Fla., not far from the Kennedy Space Center.

“You could watch it take off on television and walk outside and see it once it cleared the tree line,’’ he said. “Watching it, you knew something happened from seeing all the vapor trails. It was very eerie to watch. For me, those are two similar, emotional days.’’

Francona was scouting for the Indians at the time of the terrorist attacks and was in Pittsburgh. When he returned to his home in Philadelphia, he drove past Shanksville, Pa., the town where United Flight 93 crashed.

Francona’s son, Nick, is a Marine officer serving in Afghanistan. At his son’s request, Francona does not discuss that publicly.

Call-ups coming? Pawtucket was eliminated from the International League playoffs Saturday night. Francona said the team would talk today about which players to call up.

Only four Pawtucket players are on the 40-man roster: first baseman Lars Anderson, catcher Luis Exposito, shortstop Jose Iglesias, and righthander Junichi Tazawa.

Exposito already has returned home to Miami. Given how much the bullpen has been used of late, Tazawa could be added to the roster. Iglesias also could be helpful.

Sweet 16 Jacoby Ellsbury celebrated his 28th birthday by extending his hitting streak to 16 games with a single in the fifth. He is tied for the longest active streak in the AL with Adrian Beltre of Texas. The two were teammates last season, and it was Beltre who collided with Ellsbury in April, breaking several of the outfielder’s ribs . . . Tampa Bay’s B.J. Upton and Arizona’s Justin Upton are the first brothers to have at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in the same season . . . Francona said Kevin Youkilis will rejoin the team tomorrow but it’s uncertain whether he will be able to play. Youkilis missed the Rays series with hip bursitis and a hernia . . . Conor Jackson pinch hit in the eighth, his first action since crashing into the bullpen fence at Fenway a week prior. He lined to center, extending his hitless streak to 26 at-bats. He is 0 for 5 with the Sox . . . Carl Crawford was 1 for 3 and is 6 for 38 (.158) with no RBIs or stolen bases against the Rays . . . The Rays have won 15 of their last 20 home games.

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

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