Terry Francona, who has been maintaining for weeks that Hideki Okajima wasn’t tired, acknowledged this afternoon that Okajima has been shut down, probably for a few more days.
Francona offered no specifics, but when asked if it was anything more complicated than Okajima going through a “dead arm” period, he replied: “No, it’s not more complicated. We just felt it was the right thing to do.”
Francona also made it clear he plans to stick with the plan to use Eric Gagne as an eighth-inning setup man. When it was suggested that he was running out of time and needed to look for alternatives, Francona refuted that notion, saying, “Time isn’t running out. He could probably pitch five more times if we wanted. Or more. There’s a lot of baseball left. Ten games is a long time.”
Francona was irritated by press reports stating that Jonathan Papelbon was warming up in the bullpen while Gagne was giving up three runs in the eighth last night. He was not, Francona said. TV cameras showed Papelbon standing about halfway between the mound and bullpen plate, making a few tosses, but it sounds like he may have just been anticipating a call.
Francona was asked if tonight’s starter, Clay Buchholz, might be considered for a backend of the pen role going forward. He said it was too soon to speculate on such things.
The three walking wounded – Manny Ramirez, Coco Crisp, and Kevin Youkilis — all remain sidelined. Manny will miss his 21st game with a strained oblique, while Coco will be missing his second straight game with a stiff back. He also didn’t start last Friday night, but pinch ran and was thrown out attempting to steal. Youkilis will be missing his fourth game since being hit in the right wrist by Chien-Ming Wang. Youkilis did some dry swinging and played catch again with trainer Paul Lessard, so there is some progress, Francona said.
Francona defended Ramirez’s continued absence from the lineup, reiterating that the muscle continues to grab him while running. “Frustrated? I’m frustrated that we don’t have him back in the lineup. I told him that yesterday, ‘I said, ‘You’re so damn good we want you in there every day. It’s hard for me to give him a day off in the season, just because of his presence. But he’s just not ready to play. His work ethic has been very good. I know that over the course of the years, there have been some hiccups with him. I know, I’ve been a part of some of them. But this isn’t one of them.”
Francona said he is confident that Manny will be ready for the playoffs.
Here’s the Sox lineup (Jays to come)
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B
3. David Ortiz, DH
4. Mike Lowell, 3B
5. J.D. Drew, RF
6. Jason Varitek, C
7. Eric Hinske, 1B
8. Bobby Kielty, LF
9. Julio Lugo, SS