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Starting plan: Knuckle down

Wakefield leaves a void in rotation

Yesterday, manager Terry Francona confirmed that the Red Sox, already missing three starting pitchers in David Wells, Matt Clement, and Lenny DiNardo, will have a fourth go on the disabled list.

Tim Wakefield, who was in the clubhouse but declined comment, was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his rib, which will pull him off the mound for at least three weeks. The team has not announced a starter -- perhaps Kason Gabbard will be promoted from Pawtucket, or the team could make a deal -- to fill the knuckleballer's slot tomorrow in Seattle.

Although Francona said Wakefield would most likely be out a month, he noted a recent bone scan showed significant healing in Wakefield's rib. Wakefield, who has been pitching in pain the last month, will not make the West Coast trip. Wakefield will rest until Monday, then begin activity under the supervision of rehabilitation coordinator Scott Waugh. He threw only four innings against Kansas City Monday before withdrawing because of pain in his back.

``We knew he was sore," Francona said. ``He thought he slept wrong originally. And he may have. When it turned into this, it's hard to tell. Even talking to medical experts who have a lot of knowledge, they say he could have done it sneezing. He doesn't remember one incident."

Wakefield's injury puts even more stress on a staff that is relying on Kyle Snyder (1-1, 10.03 ERA) to fill the fifth spot, and hoping rookie Jon Lester (5-0, 2.38 ERA) puts together starts similar to Tuesday's, when he one-hit the Royals over eight innings. Possible in-house spot starters include Jason Johnson, Abe Alvarez, and David Pauley.

After his win yesterday, Curt Schilling discussed how he and Josh Beckett, who pitched eight scoreless innings against Kansas City Wednesday after agreeing to a three-year contract extension, would have to keep improving on their 12-win seasons with Wakefield shelved.

``We certainly have to pick it up," Schilling said. ``I know that and I hope he understands that now. With all the stuff going on with him on and off the field, in addition to the money, he has more accountability now. He has responsibility. And I think that he's very accepting of that, which is one of the reasons he's going to be what he's going to be."

No pain for Peña
After playing his first game since May 26, Wily Mo Peña, who took over DH duties from David Ortiz yesterday, reported all was well with his injured left wrist.

``I feel great so far," said Peña, who went 2 for 3 with two RBIs. ``In my first at-bat, I wanted to get comfortable."

Peña dribbled to first baseman Mark Teixeira in the first inning, but he delivered in what Francona dubbed the most significant situation of the day. In the third inning, after Mark Loretta ran into the first out at home, Peña drove in two runs when he took starter John Rheinecker's 3-and-2 outside fastball the other way for a double. Right fielder Mark DeRosa tracked down the ball, but it clanged off his glove, scoring Kevin Youkilis and Manny Ramírez to give the Sox a 4-3 lead.

``We have a chance of turning a potential big inning into nothing," Francona said. ``We get the two runs, so that, to me, was the biggest at-bat of the game."

Mix and match
Francona planned to sit Ortiz yesterday as Big Papi is dealing with a sore back and fighting fatigue.

``He's not hurt. It just made sense to me," Francona said. ``When he came back from the All-Star break, he was tired. That's not what you're looking for. In that home run hitting contest, part of me wasn't that sad when he fell out of it. I love him to death and I want him to get all the accolades he can get. But I knew he was going to be wiped out."

But then Mike Lowell, who was scheduled to hit No. 3 yesterday, arrived at Fenway with a stomach bug, forcing Francona to alter his lineup. Francona moved center fielder Coco Crisp (0 for 5) into the leadoff spot and dropped Youkilis (1 for 3, two runs, two walks) into the third position.

Alex Cora made his first start at third base this season, although he took over for Lowell in the 19-inning, 6-5 loss to the White Sox July 9. Cora (2 for 3) has started 20 games at shortstop and seven at second base. In the second inning, Cora went to his right to snare a shot off the bat of DeRosa and forced Hank Blalock at second, drawing a thumbs-up from Schilling.

Going West
Wells and Keith Foulke will accompany the club on the six-game trip to Seattle and Oakland, while Wakefield, Clement, and DiNardo will remain in Boston . . . When DeRosa scored Texas's first run in the second inning, he snapped Boston's streak of 22 scoreless innings. DeRosa was at the center of action yesterday, sending a screamer back at Schilling in the third that the pitcher gloved, then gunning out Loretta at home in the bottom half . . . With Wakefield scheduled to be disabled, Francona will have to make decisions on when to start Doug Mirabelli, the knuckleballer's designated catcher. Francona planned to study pitching matchups to determine when Mirabelli, who caught Beckett Wednesday, might draw his next start and give Jason Varitek some rest. Francona said Mirabelli will be guaranteed starts during Wakefield's absence. ``It will go a long way to help Tek," Francona said . . . After Wednesday's 1-0 victory over Kansas City, ballpark staff shifted the Stop & Shop sign, originally located on the center-field wall, to the right of the door leading to the outfield batting cage. The Sox' righthanded hitters and home plate umpire Doug Eddings noted the difficulty tracking pitches thrown by lefthander Mark Redman during Wednesday's matinee. ``I think [traveling secretary Jack McCormick] was behind it," cracked Cora. ``That's the kind of pull he has."

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