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Santana or Lester? Today, they face each other

Posted by Gordon Edes, Globe Staff  March 10, 2008 09:01 AM

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Jon Lester's name was on the table when the Sox were discussing a trade for Johan Santana with the Twins. Eventually, the Sox dropped out of the running--even if they had made a deal, the Sox say privately they don't know whether they would have satisfied Santana's contract demands--and Santana went to the Mets. Luis Tiant, for one, says the Sox would have been in the World Series three times in the next five years with a rotation that featured Santana and Josh Beckett at the top, but the Sox are persuaded that Lester will be an elite pitcher. This afternoon in Port St. Lucie, Lester and Santana face each other as the Sox play the Mets in the first of back-to-back games. They play in City of Palms Park tomorrow.

Julio Lugo did not make the trip; he is missing his eighth straight game with what the club is calling lower back tightness. Coco Crisp, who has not played since March 2 because of a groin injury and has been on the field for just a total of eight innings this spring, also stayed back in Fort Myers. Both Lugo and Crisp are scheduled to take batting practice in City of Palms today.

The Sox have lost six in a row and eight of their last nine games, and have scored just four runs in their last 36 innings. Drawing Santana, of course, is no way to break out a slump, and the Sox aren't running out their A-list lineup against the Mets. Jason Varitek is hitting in the 3-hole, with Kevin Youkilis batting cleanup.

Guys who have been swinging the bat include Chris Carter, with 6 hits in the last 13 at-bats, while Sean Casey is 5 for his last 10 and Alex Cora is 6 for his last 12.

Here's the Sox lineup:

1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Jed Lowrie, 2B
3. Jason Varitek, C
4. Kevin Youkilis, 1B
5. Brandon Moss, RF
6. Bobby Kielty, LF
7. Alex Cora, SS
8. Keith Ginter, 3B
-- Jon Lester, SP

Besides Lester, Hideki Okajima, Javier Lopez, David Aardsma, and Craig Hansen are scheduled to pitch.

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