For the second time in three days, Terry Francona wasn't able to make his appointed rounds at the team's workout, instead staying home to deal with a flu bug that has hit him hard. A team doctor saw him twice this morning after a visit last night. Francona had come out Saturday to view the workout, but may not have given himself time to recover from a 100-degree temperature the day before. There was some concern that he might be dehydrated. He worked vigorously earlier in the week banging baseballs at the pitchers during fielding workouts.
A smaller than usual turnout at the Fort today, as many folks make their way back to New England after school vacation week. Mike Timlin had to cut short his BP session after 10 pitches or so when struck by either a cramp or spasm. He came in for heat, ice and a rub and said he'll have to wait to see if he will make his scheduled exhibition debut Wednesday. Timlin is the second reliever to come up with a back problem early, joining Craig Hansen, who will take it slow for a few days after sustaining a slight strain. The difference is, no one raises the issue of Hansen's age as they do with Timlin, who turns 41 next month.
"I've only been asked 20 times about it already," Timlin said.
Asked if he and the other members of the 40-plus fraternity -- Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield -- might form a club within a club, with their own T-shirts and the like, Timlin said, "No, that would be a clique, and this team has no cliques."
Timlin reiterated a desire to get a shot at closing, which he didn't get in the famous bullpen-by-committee in '03.
Other random thoughts:
-- Wily Mo Pena fouled a ball off his foot in BP and somewhat incredibly said that's the first time that's happened to him.
-- Jason Varitek looked like a sci-fi creature while testing a pair of those infrared contact lenses. Varitek said it's supposed to help with contrast in color, something that might be useful in Fenway's shadows. There was no corrective aspect to the lenses: Varitek has spectacular 20-10 vision.
-- There's a chance David Ortiz will be hitting against Dice-K when the Japanese star throws another round of live BP tomorrow. "You know what?" he said. "Dice-K is on my team now, so I don't have to worry about him. But right now, I don't feel like getting in the cage against anybody."
-- Luis Tiant played golf with Josh Beckett on Saturday and was giving pointers today to Joel Pineiro, who said, yes, he knew how good Tiant was. El Tiante is pessimistic about his chances of being selected by the Veterans Committee into the Hall of Fame. An announcement comes this week.
-- Dustin Pedroia, who boasted of his ping-pong prowess in my colleague Amalie Benjamin's nice feature today, ratcheted the stakes today when he said he and doubles partner Kevin Youkilis could not only beat anyone in the Sox clubhouse but any other twosome "in the world." I'm a good basement player myself, but I'm hoping some of my Japanese colleagues are world class and will put these guys in their place. Youks is challenging the Globe to come up with the scratch to import a table so a tournament can be held this March. Gotta run that one by the bosses.
-- Don't miss Red Sox Stories on Channel 38 tonight at 10:30; they're showing a sweet film on the life of Johnny Pesky, who watched it this afternoon and was misty-eyed by the end, as were a few of those who were watching with him. Some great photos of the Old Man of the Red Sox, in a film beautifully put together by Tom Catlin, who has left the Sox to become VP of creative services for the Dodgers.
--And aside to Leslie Epstein: My friends Dick and Rose from Naples advise me there is a Nathan's about to open in the Fort Myers airport.