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Beckett definite; Lowell and Lowrie scratches explained

Posted by Adam Kilgore, Globe Staff  October 3, 2008 07:03 PM

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Mike Lowell’s hip injury did not worsen, but Terry Francona made what he said was a very difficult decision to sit him. Lowell wanted to play badly, Francona said. One factor in the decision was the fact that Joe Saunders, a lefty will start Game 3 on Sunday in Fenway Park, and Francona wanted to guarantee a healthy Lowell for that game.

“It was hard because of who he is,” Francona said. “Under a lot of circumstances, we’d just throw Mikey Lowell out there. I thought in this case, I needed to step in and kind of be the manager. And that was a hard one for me.

“I think it’s my responsibility to keep our team going in the right direction. I think this is the right thing to do. We’re not going to do this every game, either. I think it was the right move to make tonight.”

Francona, while trying not to give away any strategy, said Lowell could pinch hit but will not be asked to play the field. “We’re not going to hurt him,” Francona said. “There might be a situation where we could hit him, if there’s not a force.”

-Francona had an inkling he would start Alex Cora over Jed Lowrie tonight even before the series began. Francona preferred Cora over Lowrie even before he knew their stats against Ervin Santana. He felt Cora matched up better against the style of pitching employed by Santana than Lowrie. When Francona looked at the numbers that Cora is 2 for 3 against Santana with a double and a triple, it simply heightened his comfort with the move.

“I kind of thought this would be a good time,” Francona said. “I hope it proves to be a really good move.”

-Josh Beckett will start Game 3 without question. “He’s pitching,” Francona said. Francona was extremely satisfied with Beckett’s 67-pitch side session in the bullpen yesterday. While watching him yesterday from a distance, he liked Beckett’s body language and could hear the catcher’s mitt pop.

“That ball was loud,” Francona said.

Afterward, John Farrell told Francona, “This is not a guy that’s hurt.”

This was the plan all along. The Red Sox, Francona said, could have tried to pitch Beckett tonight. But they wanted to give him a full week of normal preparation so he could go into the game with his best stuff. That’s exactly what happened, Francona said.

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