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Martinez won't start in first Yankee series

Breaking with tradition, the Red Sox temporarily have suspended their plan to give Pedro Martinez an extra day of rest whenever possible. The new policy will keep Martinez pitching in front of Curt Schilling, who prefers to pitch every fifth day, with Derek Lowe and Tim Wakefield following them. The fifth starter, Bronson Arroyo, will be pushed back until Saturday to accommodate the alignment.

Under the plan, the Sox will not take advantage of today's offday to start Martinez Friday in the opener of a four-game series at Fenway against the Yankees. Instead, he will face the Orioles Thursday, with Schilling going Friday, Arroyo Saturday, Lowe Sunday and Wakefield Monday.

"It doesn't mean the season's over," Francona said of Martinez missing the Yankees. "We're just trying to set these guys up where we think our ball club is best suited. We've looked at every factor we can think of and we think this is the best. And there are a lot of variables. It's not just the Yankees."

General manager Theo Epstein noted that under the realigned rotation Martinez will face the Yankees in the Bronx April 25. The only way Martinez would have faced the Yankees in both series, Francona said, would have been if he went on three days' rest. Schilling will miss the Yankees in the second series.

Lowe said the starters have been informed they will go every fifth day, though Epstein said the plan only applied to the next couple of weeks. Martinez made 11 of his 29 starts last year with more than four days' rest. By contrast, Schilling has made 11 of his last 60 starts since 2002 with more than four days' rest.

"I think that's going to be the plan as long as we all stay healthy, to get us as many starts as we can," Lowe said of going every fifth day. "I don't think people realize that pitching on five days' rest this early in the year actually hurts you because you don't need it. Early in the year, you want to get out there as quick as you can."

Lowe and Wakefield led the Sox in starts last year with 33. Schilling started 24 games last year because of injuries after starting 35 each of the two previous years. The most starts Martinez has made in a season is 33, with the Sox in 1998 and Expos in '96.

New Nixon game plan Altering their plan for Trot Nixon, the Sox have extended the injured right fielder's stay at the University of Miami Spine Institute. Nixon, who is trying to come back from a mildly herniated disk, originally was scheduled to spend two weeks there under the supervision of Dr. Barth A. Green, chief of the university's department of neurological surgery. Francona indicated Nixon will remain at the institute indefinitely, although he said the right fielder has not experienced a setback.

"After revisiting and reevaluating, I think everybody making the decisions feels like he can get more accomplished by staying there," Francona said. "He can get what baseball he needs to do done [at the school's athletic facilities], but he can also stay with the therapist and do what he has to do."

Nixon, who arrived for spring training more than seven weeks ago in pain, was sent to the spine center after a series of anti-inflammatory treatments failed to resolve the discomfort. Green has worked extensively with Anaheim right fielder Vladimir Guerrero, who was plagued with back problems.

Asked if Nixon bounced back well from his first light baseball activities last week in rehab, Francona said, "I think he's doing OK. He's just not ready to be here playing yet."

Team medical director Bill Morgan projected last month that Nixon could return about May 1. Asked if that remains feasible, Francona said, "We'll see. I'd like to have him tomorrow, but we have to let his body dictate when he's ready to play. He's killing himself to play. We just want him to be healthy."

In other rehab news, Byung Hyun Kim (strained right shoulder) is scheduled to pitch two innings of a simulated game today at the training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., then go three innings Thursday for Single A Sarasota. He is on track to return by late April or early May.

Good Mendoza news An arthrogram MRI of Ramiro Mendoza's right shoulder showed no sign of damage. Mendoza left the team shorthanded in the 13-inning game last Thursday after he told the medical staff he felt a little shoulder stiffness. The next day, the Sox placed him on the disabled list, and called up lefthander Mark Malaska from Triple A Pawtucket. Malaska got the win yesterday. Francona said Mendoza will rest for about a week, then begin a strength and conditioning program. "When he can get up and pitch like he can pitch, then we'll bring him back," the manager said . . . Scott Williamson was not used in the 12-inning victory because he experienced a little tenderness near his right elbow while warming up . . . Johnny Damon (severely bruised left knee) missed a second straight game after fouling a ball off his knee. Francona indicated Damon could return tomorrow against the Orioles. With Damon out, Mark Bellhorn batted leadoff for the first time with the Sox, supplanting Cesar Crespo, who went 2 for 4 Saturday at the top the order. The Sox went with Bellhorn because he was batting .625 (5 for 8) against Toronto starter Miguel Batista. Bellhorn reached base four times, three on walks, as he improved his on-base percentage to .424. He scored a run and knocked in one . . . David Ortiz's walk-off homer was his second for the Sox and first since Sept. 23 against the Orioles. He extended his hitting streak to six games . . . Manny Ramirez has either scored or knocked in a run in all seven games . . . Three Sox had birthdays: Nixon (who turned 30), Jason Varitek (32), and Bobby Jones (32).

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