LOS ANGELES - Bartolo Colon, who took another step toward making a claim on the fifth spot in the Red Sox rotation with four solid innings in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium last night, is now scheduled to pitch Pawtucket's season opener Thursday night in Pawtucket, manager Terry Francona said after the game. Colon will travel with the team to Oakland before heading back for his start for Boston's Triple A affiliate.
Colon struck out four of the first seven batters he faced, and did not give up a hit until Rafael Furcal's two-out single in the third. The Dodgers opened the fourth with back-to-back doubles by Andre Ethier and Jeff Kent to break a scoreless tie, but Colon worked out of it, stranding runners on second and third by inducing Juan Pierre to ground out.
Colon threw 60 pitches, 36 for strikes. He topped out at 92 miles an hour on the Dodger Stadium radar gun, but Francona said he thought the gun might have been a tick or two slow.
"I think we're all pleased," Francona said. "I think he was, too."
Sox PR man John Blake had first base coach Luis Alicea all set to translate for Colon, but the big righthander declined to speak with reporters.
The Sox placed reliever Mike Timlin on the 15-day disabled list last night with a laceration of the ring finger on his pitching hand. The move was retroactive to March 20, meaning Timlin is eligible to be activated next Friday, the first game of the weekend Toronto series. Timlin joins Josh Beckett, who also can't pitch until the Toronto series, on the DL.
Francona said the club will not rush Timlin back into action, implying he may not be ready for Toronto. The stitches in Timlin's finger have yet to be removed.
"What we want him to do is be able to pitch," Francona said. "We don't want him to go backwards. I'm sure he's frustrated because he's felt good this spring, but we want to make sure he's OK and ready to pitch."
The move means three relievers battling for the final spot on the pitching staff - lefthander Javier Lopez, the incumbent, and righthanders Bryan Corey and David Aardsma - will remain with the club at least through the two regular-season games in Oakland.
When Beckett and Timlin are activated, only one of the three can stay. All three are out of options, meaning they cannot be sent to Triple A Pawtucket without being exposed to waivers.
Corey, who was 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in nine appearances after being recalled last September from Pawtucket, had pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings in his last six exhibition outings before being touched for a run in Wednesday's 5-1 loss to Oakland.
Lopez faced two batters in Tuesday's 6-5, 10-inning win and retired both, striking out Oakland DH Jack Cust, who whiffed in all four of his plate appearances. Aardsma, a nonroster invitee to big league camp, pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings Wednesday, striking out three.
Spring strainingGeneral manager Theo Epstein did not seem particularly concerned that the Sox were back to playing practice games after two games that count. "It's odd," he said, "but it's not catching us by surprise. We certainly were aware of it. As strange as it seems, it's probably a good thing, because it gives us a little time to recover and get ready for Tuesday [in Oakland]."
But another example of the peculiar nature of the Sox' spring this year, Epstein said, "is that even our relaxing time, so to speak, is going to be a little crazy with 115,000 people. But it should be fun."
The Dodgers have sold more than 115,000 tickets for tonight's exhibition in the Coliseum, which served as their original home for four seasons before their move to Dodger Stadium.
"The early part of the season is not always a real good indicator," Epstein said. "We've been fortunate to get off to good starts, but everything's exaggerated early. One guy goes 3 for 4, everybody thinks he's going to have a great year. Another guy goes 0 for 4, they think he's done. As far as I'm concerned, I'd kind of like to go scout for the draft or do something else until the end of April, when you get in a good rhythm and see how things are really going. Unfortunately, you don't have that luxury in Boston.
"I'm not a big fan of the early season. It'd be nice to get off to another good start, but we have a tough schedule, which is more so who we're playing than the travel involved. But we'll do our best and try to do some damage."
The Sox have games against the Tigers, Yankees, Indians, Yankees (again), Angels, and Detroit (again) in the first six weeks.
Swinging at soundsJason Varitek struck out all three times he batted last night. Counting the regular-season games in Japan against Oakland, in which he struck out six times in eight at-bats, Varitek has whiffed in nine of his last 11 at-bats . . . Epstein said Beckett (back) will join the club in Toronto regardless of whether he pitches against the Blue Jays. "I think he's itching to get back with the boys," the GM said. Beckett is likely to throw a camp game in Florida before rejoining the team . . . J.D. Drew's back kept him out of the lineup last night . . . Union chief Donald Fehr was here and spoke with Francona and Sox players about last week's controversy regarding whether the coaches would get paid the extra $40,000 stipend from Yomiuri, the Japanese sponsor of this week's trip to Japan. Francona and the coaches eventually were paid, as Major League Baseball and the Sox made up the difference. It remains to be seen whether the Sox will be reimbursed for their share.
Gordon Edes can be reached at email@example.com.