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Wells is due up, so Meredith will be sent down

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Bronson Arroyo officially began serving his six-game suspension yesterday, 19 days after he was assessed the penalty following the April 23 incidents in Tampa Bay. Arroyo can do all of his normal work with the Red Sox before and after games but cannot be on the bench or in the clubhouse during games.

''This is a forced vacation," manager Terry Francona said. ''Maybe it will be good. It's hard to tell one of your starters to take three or four days off in the middle of the season."

Arroyo and the team decided it was best for him to sit now because of a flexible schedule. Tomorrow is a scheduled offday, and Monday is an exhibition game at Cooperstown, N.Y., that will be pitched by minor leaguers.

Thus, the rotation shapes up as follows:

David Wells returns today vs. Oakland, his first start since April 25. Wade Miller pitches Friday, Tim Wakefield Saturday, and Matt Clement Sunday in the weekend series vs. Atlanta. Wells opens the series at Toronto Tuesday, and Arroyo rejoins the staff Wednesday.

Before activating Wells, the Sox decided to to keep Jeremi Gonzalez and demote Cla Meredith. Meredith, who pitched three times in 10 days since his call-up, feels the need to pitch more often.

He will be better-suited in Triple A Pawtucket, where he stopped for only three days between Double A Portland and the big leagues.

Gonzalez might find himself pitching long relief out of the Boston bullpen.

Meredith and Gonzalez have options remaining, meaning the Sox can demote either pitcher without having to expose him to waivers.

Spring in his step

John Olerud went 2 for 2 in an extended spring game yesterday, elevating his average to .800 (8 for 10) . . . Francona said Rule 5 outfielder Adam Stern could be ready to play in Boston within a few weeks. Stern was expected to miss only a matter of days after jamming his thumb March 5 at Sarasota, Fla., but he was later diagnosed with a sprained ligament. It all seems a bit odd, given Stern's status as a Rule 5 outfielder who must spend the year with the Sox or be offered back to Atlanta. ''Oh no," Francona said. ''We want to see him play." Last year the Sox went through a similar situation with Lenny DiNardo, plucked from the Mets in the Rule 5 draft. When Stern was hurt, Francona conceded, it did look somewhat suspicious. ''Theo [Epstein] actually called the Mets because it looked suspicious, and it wasn't," Francona said . . . Francona didn't give much thought to playing Trot Nixon last night vs. lefthander Barry Zito, even though lefties went into last night hitting .300 vs. Zito and righties .252. Furthermore, Nixon went into the day batting .343, while Jay Payton was at .203. With a day game today, said Francona, ''that makes it a lot easier [decision]." Payton needs at-bats. He entered last night on pace for 280 at-bats after averaging 470 each year between 2000 and 2004. ''As far as how he's handled it, he's been terrific," said Francona. ''If you asked if he likes it, I bet he doesn't. He's accepted it but he handles it professionally. I'm sure it's an adjustment. We don't want to have Jay not play for a while." Payton went 0 for 3 but walked twice last night.

An episode of 'lost'

Before his loss Monday, lefthander Mike Myers (1-1) hadn't lost in 79 appearances dating to April 21, 2004, also against Oakland. The only active streak in the majors longer than Myers's belongs to Houston's Mike Gallo (101 appearances between 2003-04). Gallo is currently pitching for the Astros' Triple A team . . . Under the heading ''Today in Red Sox History," Sox PR guru Peter Chase unleashed this beauty: ''On May 17, 1947, a seagull flew over Fenway Park and pelted St. Louis Browns pitcher Ellis Kinder with a three-pound smelt. The unflappable Kinder held on to top the Red Sox, 4-2." . . . By making his sixth start of the season today, Wells can continue pitching his way toward some steep bonuses that don't so much weigh performance as they do health. Wells, who received a $3 million signing bonus, will make $2.5 million in base salary this season and next season. He'll also make $200,000 per start for his 11th to 20th starts and $300,000 per start for starts 21 to 30 . . . If you're headed to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame game between the Sox and Tigers, and you head out a couple days early, you'll have the chance to meet Sox legend Bobby Doerr. The Hall of Fame second baseman, now 87, will be signing the Hall of Fame's book, ''Baseball as America," inside the museum at 3 p.m. Saturday. He'll be joined by Robin Roberts, the 78-year-old Hall of Fame righthander. Monday's game, scheduled for 1 p.m., is sold out. Though the Sox will pitch all minor leaguers, Francona said he'll play most of his starting lineup. But it's highly unlikely that Jason Varitek or Manny Ramirez will play, he said.

Yankee ingenuity?

Yesterday's Newark Star-Ledger reported that the Yankees may tinker with their rotation so that Randy Johnson, Carl Pavano, and Mike Mussina would pitch the Memorial Day series against the Sox at Yankee Stadium . . . Atlanta announced its probables for this weekend, and it's about as good as it gets: Mike Hampton (4-1, 1.96) Friday vs. Miller; Tim Hudson (4-2, 3.18) Saturday vs. Wakefield; and John Smoltz (3-3, 2.83) Sunday vs. Clement . . . June 4 will be Western Massachusetts Day at Fenway Park. Fans who live in Hamden, Hampshire, Berkshire, and Franklin counties can register online beginning tomorrow at noon for the chance to buy tickets for the game vs. Anaheim, which begins at 1:20 p.m. Registration ends Monday at noon.

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