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Closer situation open

Posted by Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff  April 7, 2006 05:15 PM

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BALTIMORE -- Sox manager Terry Francona continued to watch his words when it comes to his closer situation. Before tonight’s game, Francona was careful not to say that Jonathan Papelbon would be exclusively the closer.

‘‘The idea is I want to get him [Keith Foulke] to a point where I can get him in the game in the ninth inning,’’ Francona said.

Francona feels Foulke is making progress in the velocity of his pitches, but the manager would not commit to any specific role for Foulke and even said he could use him as the closer depending on the game situation.

‘‘I don’t feel he’s anywhere close to [as bad as] last year right now,’’ said Francona.

Francona noted the closer topic is a hot button issue in Boston, but that ‘‘it’s really not a hot button issue with us.’’

While Francona indicated organization’s goal is to get Foulke back in the closer role, he would not get into the old what if -- what if Papelbon is lights out and never gives the closer job back?

‘‘It doesn’t make sense for me to talk about that. That’s too long down the road,’’ Francona said.

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  • With lefty Bruce Chen going Saturday for the Orioles, Francona said he will give Wily Mo Pena a start in right field.

  • Old friend Kevin Millar chatted up his old teammates before the game at the batting cage. Millar was talking to David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell (a former Marlins teammate) and Manny Ramirez.

  • Francona was asked about what some perceived a lot of shaking off of Jason Varirek’s signs by Josh Beckett in his 2-1 win over Texas on Wednesday, but Francona said he didn’t notice it and just thought it was to guys getting to know one another.

  • Sox left-hander David Wells was expected to return to Baltimore after he pitches tonight in Pawtucket.

    Tonight's lineups:

    Red Sox
    1. Coco Crisp, CF
    2. Mark Loretta, 2B
    3. David Ortiz, DH
    4. Manny Ramirez, LF
    5. Trot Nixon, RF
    6. Jason Varitek, C
    7. Mike Lowell, 3B
    8. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
    9. Alex Gonzalez, SS
    Matt Clement, P

    Orioles
    1. Brian Roberts, 2B
    2. Nick Markakis, CF
    3. Melvin Mora, 3B
    4. Miguel Tejada, SS
    5. Jay Gibbons, RF
    6. Kevin Millar, 1B
    7. Javy Lopez, DH
    8. Jeff Conine, LF
    9. Ramon Hernandez, C
    Daniel Cabrera, P

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