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Talk is cheap: Francona fined only $300

Manager Terry Francona got off rather cheaply for his criticism of umpire Greg Gibson following the Red Sox-Yankees game April 14. Francona's fine notification came in the mail yesterday -- for just $300.

A nonplayer cannot appeal a fine, so he's forced to pay up.

Francona does not expect to hear until midweek about suspensions or fines for Sunday's events in Tampa Bay.

Trot Nixon (who got into it with Devil Rays pitcher Dewon Brazelton) and Bronson Arroyo (ejected after hitting Chris Singleton) stand to be suspended. Francona, who was ejected along with Arroyo, could be looking at another fine.

Millar a big hit

Kevin Millar has been hit five times by pitches in this young season. He went into last night's game on pace for 43. The club record, held by Don Baylor, is 35 in 1986. By the looks of Millar's body, the record might break him before he breaks it. Yesterday, Millar showed off four bruises, one for each pitch he's been hit with recently.

So what did Francona do to help out his first baseman? He put him in left field. Francona wanted to give Manny Ramirez a rest but keep his bat in the lineup. So Ramirez moved to designated hitter, David Ortiz played first, and Millar headed to the outfield.

"Millar knows that the more Manny wants to DH, the more precarious his playing time is, so we're kind of counting on Millar to handle that part of it," Francona said. "And it's not like he's going to get slower."

Ortiz, who appeared in 34 games at first base last season, committed a second-inning error in his 2005 debut at the position.

Millar, meanwhile, looks like a beaten man. His right leg is black and blue, knee to ankle, the damage done by Tampa Bay's Scott Kazmir Friday night. There's a line on his leg just below the knee where the seams of the ball stamped his skin. Then there's a fading bruise on his side, where he was plunked last Tuesday by Toronto's Roy Halladay. And there are two marks on his upper left arm, one caused last Wednesday by Baltimore's Bruce Chen, another Saturday by Tampa Bay's Seth McClung.

But the pain comes with its perks; Millar entered last night's game sixth in the American League in on-base percentage at .437 despite hitting just .293. That's thanks to 13 walks (third in the AL) and the five plunkings (most in the league).

Bottom is tops

Entering last night's game, opposing No. 9 hitters were batting .355 (22 for 62) against the Sox. The ninth spot, according to statistician Chuck Waseleski, had the highest batting average, on-base percentage (.420), slugging percentage (.597), and most home runs (4) of any spot in the lineup against the Sox . . . Baltimore scored in the first inning last night, the first first-inning run allowed by the Sox this season. They were the last team in the majors to allow a first-inning run, and did so in their 20th game . . . Johnny Damon is batting .361 (13 for 36) in innings 1-3 this season, .095 (2 for 21) in innings 4-6, and .583 (14 for 24) in innings 7-9. Last night, he reached base five times (three singles and two walks) for the second straight game . . . Impressive line for Alan Embree: The lefthander whiffed four in 1 1/3 innings. He walked one and allowed no hits but did give up an unearned run on a walk to Luis Matos, two stolen bases, and an errant Jason Varitek throw to third base that skipped into left field . . . Sammy Sosa struck out swinging four times: an 87-m.p.h. Wells fastball in the first inning, an 89-m.p.h. Wells fastball in the third, a 94-m.p.h. Mantei heater in the seventh, and a 77-m.p.h. John Halama offspeed pitch in the ninth. Sosa singled in the fifth . . . Only with the Red Sox does this kind of thing happen: " `Curt's Pitch for ALS' is announcing the follow-up to the infamous Grady Little Bobble-Arm Doll," said Mike Lembo, special events coordinator for Curt's Pitch for ALS, in an emailed release. "This Wednesday we will be holding a press conference in the interview room at Fenway Park to announce the Curt Schilling Bobble-Ankle Doll." Details to come.

Next stop, Pawtucket

Wade Miller, who hasn't pitched in a game since last Monday, will work Thursday for Triple A Pawtucket at McCoy Stadium. Miller, whose last start came with Single A Wilmington, was supposed to appear Saturday with Double A Portland, but that game was rained out, as was the game the following day. Miller thus will skip the Double A level, but don't read much into that. "You can read into that we think the weather is going to be better [in Pawtucket] and Double A is on the road," Francona said. "He is making good progress. This looked like the most convenient, the best thing to do." Miller threw a 15-minute side session yesterday. Francona doesn't want to put a timetable on Miller. Best bet: two more rehab starts. Miller expects to throw 90 pitches Thursday at Pawtucket. "I'm happy to be facing a higher level [of competition]," he said.

Sick of it all

Bill Mueller doesn't know -- or isn't saying -- exactly what has made him so ill the last week. "It could be called a flu, a virus, a cold," he said. "Title it whatever you want. I'm sick. And I'm very frustrated with it." The popular stadium song "Bring Me to Life" by Evanescence wasn't played in the bottom of the ninth but it could have been. Mueller, who hadn't appeared in four straight games and hadn't started in six of seven, pinch hit to lead off the inning and struck out. Mueller doesn't know whether he will be healthy enough to play nine innings tonight but didn't rule it out. "I think it's realistic," he said. "It's just getting my strength back." . . . Ramon Vazquez, playing for Mueller, reached base three times in three at-bats, singling twice and walking. Vazquez has fielded third base well, especially for someone who played only nine games at third last season with San Diego. "Before we got him, the one thing Theo [Epstein] told me is he'll catch the ball anywhere, he'll make all the plays he's supposed to," Francona said.

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