Extra Bases

Some pregame notes from Sarasota

SARASOTA — Jason Varitek remained absent to attend a family medical concern today.

“We just told him to handle what he needs to. And we’ll make adjustments. He knows he has our blessing,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

* Francona said that Mike Lowell went to see Dr. Michael Kelly, his hip surgeon, yesterday but has yet to hear what was said. Lowell went more for an informational meetings than a checkup.

*Francona said a “rough estimate” of when Daisuke Matsuzaka will pitch in a real game is around March 18. That’s an off day, but suffice to say he will throw the day before or the day after or in a minor league game that day. Matsuzaka also threw a traditional side session at City of Palms this morning.

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*Asked whether Clay Buchholz, today’s starter, is definitely in the rotation, Francona responded, “We basically have six guys. They all look healthy, really productive. Dice-K is a couple weeks behind but we think of Clay being in our rotation for years and we think that’s going to happen. I don’t think it’s important for us to tell him the first day of spring training where he’s going to pitch. I think we all want him to take this and go with it. He looks so strong. I was talking to John Farrell the other day and we were watching him pitch and I know that over the course of the years you hear all sorts of trade rumors and things. And as we watched him we said ‘this is why you don’t trade pitching.’ When you see a kid that age starting to understand it.”

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Francona said he sees more strength, poise and confidence in Buchholz this spring training. And he said as he matures things are starting to come together, citing the development of Jon Lester as a measure as where Buchholz is now.

*Francona said he’s seeing a good rapport developing on the field between Dustin Pedroia and Marco Scutaro.

*The Sox will be using the designated hitter in all of their games until March 24th when the Red Sox take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton.

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