Red Sox Notebook

Gonzalez gets a good report on his hand

Victor Martinez follows the flight of his grand slam to right, the big blow in the Red Sox’ seven-run inning. Victor Martinez follows the flight of his grand slam to right, the big blow in the Red Sox’ seven-run inning. (Adam Hunger/Reuters)
By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / October 4, 2009

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When Alex Gonzalez woke up yesterday morning, he tried to squeeze his right hand and felt almost no pain. He prodded and pushed the spot where he was hit by a pitch Friday night, and again, he felt no pain.

“That’s why I didn’t worry,’’ he said.

In the afternoon, Gonzalez officially put any concern to rest when a second, more conclusive set of X-rays than the ones he got Friday night revealed no fracture in his hand. “Very,’’ manager Terry Francona said when asked how relieved he was to hear the news.

Gonzalez said when the Red Sox’ 11-6 win over Cleveland was completed that he will try to play today.

The Red Sox had their starting shortstop. But they may need to start trying to determine who their fourth outfielder will be. Rocco Baldelli, who left Friday’s game with a strained left hip flexor he suffered while running to first, will undergo an MRI tomorrow before the team leaves for Anaheim, Calif.

“Rocco is actually hurting a little bit,’’ Francona said. “He showed up a lot more tender than we had hoped.’’

Because of Baldelli’s health condition, a cellular disorder that causes him to fatigue quickly, the strain throws Baldelli’s status for the Round 1 playoff roster into question. If Baldelli is not able to play, his fourth outfielder spot would likely go to Josh Reddick or Brian Anderson.

Gonzalez’s health was probably the priority. The Sox have a dearth of capable healthy shortstops behind Gonzalez, with Nick Green nursing a nerve injury in his back and Jed Lowrie still trying to gain full strength in his surgically repaired left wrist.

Green said he is more focused on readying himself for the second playoff series - assuming the Sox can get past the Angels - because he feels he likely won’t be ready by Thursday. “It doesn’t look it, unless something changes this week,’’ Green said.

Lowrie said he feels no pain, but it limits him when he bats lefthanded. Lowrie played the entirety of the game last night, going 0 for 3 in the process.

The Sox also confronted a surprising injury concern. Third baseman Mike Lowell was a late scratch because of a sore right thumb. Lowell jammed it Friday in his last at-bat. It was swollen when he woke up. He will try to play today. “I’m not really too worried,’’ Lowell said.

The Sox will finalize their postseason roster for the first round in a meeting tomorrow in Anaheim, but they have decided on several players currently with the team.

Pitcher Junichi Tazawa will travel with the Sox to “get a taste’’ of the playoffs, Francona said. After the two games in Anaheim, he will return home. Michael Bowden and Dusty Brown will report to Fort Myers, Fla. Dustin Richardson, Fernando Cabrera, and Hunter Jones will head home for the season.

George Kottaras will travel with the team, but only as a precaution. It seems clear he will not be on the roster, barring injury.

Reddick will report to Fort Myers if J.D. Drew is healthy, but he’ll travel with the Sox as a precaution if Drew has a setback. Francona plans on putting Drew in the lineup today after he missed three straight games.

The most telling assignment may be Bowden heading to Fort Myers. With him not around, the Sox will probably use Paul Byrd as a long man in the bullpen - if they choose to carry one.

Byrd threw three innings of mop-up duty last night, allowing two runs (on Shin-Soo Choo’s two-run homer) and three hits in three innings. It was his first regular-season appearance out of the bullpen since June 15, 2001.

Also, if Reddick goes to Fort Myers and Baldelli’s hip flexor strain is serious, that means Anderson and Joey Gathright would likely share the fourth outfielder duties.

One to remember
Brown arrived at Fenway Park not expecting he would play last night, but then, this week has not been anything like he expected.

Brown, a catcher, pitched one inning Wednesday. For the next couple of days, he heard people outside the park talking about it.

Last night, after being inserted for Victor Martinez, Brown recorded the first hit of his major league career in style. He launched a solo home run over the Green Monster in the eighth inning.

“I was running real hard, thinking double,’’ Brown said. “When it got out, I didn’t even feel like I slowed down. I think I got around the bases in about six seconds.’’

After Brown circled the bases and entered the dugout, his teammates gave him silent treatment for five seconds, then jumped all over him.

The crowd, remarkably full for that juncture of the game, chanted, “Dus-ty!’’ until he came out and made his first curtain call.

“It was unbelievable,’’ Brown said.

“At Fenway Park, to get a curtain call from the fans, there’s nothing like it. I’ll definitely remember it forever.’’

When do we start?
With one day remaining in the regular season, the Sox still do not know for certain when their playoff series will begin. The Yankees, by virtue of clinching the best record in the American League, get to choose if they want the “A’’ series that begins Wednesday or the “B’’ series that begins Thursday.

The Yankees are likely to pick the “A’’ series, but they are waiting to make it official while they await their opponent.

By beating the Royals yesterday, the Twins ensured the AL Central race will come down to today at the earliest; if they are tied, the Twins and Tigers will play a one-game playoff Tuesday, a day later than is typical because the Metrodome will be in use for the Packers-Vikings game Monday night.

The Yankees have one hour to pick their series after the Central is decided. For their part, the Red Sox already have decided to fly to Anaheim tomorrow.

Father’s day
Chris Woodward, who was expected to return to the Sox yesterday, stayed in Tampa to be with his wife, Erin, who gave birth to a healthy boy Wednesday night. The Sox gave their blessing for Woodward to stay in Florida . . . Martinez hit the first grand slam of his career, an opposite-field blast that gave the Sox the lead in the second inning. He hit a grand slam for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, but he had never hit one, even in the minors - as he did not count the WBC slam toward his career total . . . Anderson had his best day since he joined the Sox, going 3 for 3 with a home run over the Green Monster and three RBIs.

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