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Red Sox notebook

Opportunity arrives with Yankees

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / May 7, 2010

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The Red Sox beat the Yankees, 9-7, in the first game of the season. The teams veered off in different directions from there, the Sox struggling to find even a modicum of consistency, the Yankees building one of the best records in baseball.

The old rivals meet again tonight to start a three-game series. For the Sox, it represents an opportunity to make up some of the ground already lost.

“It seems like we’ve taken a collective deep breath and are playing the kind of baseball we’re capable of playing,’’ general manager Theo Epstein said before last night’s 11-6 win over the Angels. “Now the key is to keep it going.’’

The Yankees, who had yesterday off, are 19-8 and have won seven of their last eight games. But they remain in the second place in the AL East behind the torrid Tampa Bay Rays, now 21-7.

The Sox are aware of how well the Rays and Yankees have played. But they aren’t paying close attention to the standings yet.

“They’re going to struggle at some point, too,’’ Kevin Youkilis said. “They’re not going to go the whole season the way they are now. We don’t worry about the standings right now because the fraction of how many games you’ve played in a season right now is very low. We just focus on each game and each pitch.’’

The Yankees arrive with some injury concerns. Mariano Rivera has not pitched since last Friday because of stiffness on his left side. He was cleared to pitch Wednesday but was held out of a save situation against the Orioles as a precaution.

Catcher Jorge Posada is questionable because of a strained calf muscle in his right leg. He last played Monday. The Yankees have been using Francisco Cervelli in his absence.

Andy Pettitte, who was not scheduled to pitch against the Sox in this series, will miss his next start because of elbow pain and could end up on the disabled list.

The Yankees also are playing without center fielder Curtis Granderson, who is on the disabled list with a strained left groin.

The Yankees will skip struggling Javier Vazquez and start Phil Hughes, CC Sabathia, and A.J. Burnett against the Sox.

Objective met
Epstein said the changes he wanted to see have come since the team meeting manager Terry Francona held Monday. No personnel changes are planned. At this point in the season, the GM said, only cosmetic changes are possible.

Epstein pointed out that the Sox had similar poor stretches in every recent season except 2005. This slump was magnified because it came at the start.

“Getting out of the gates slow means that there’s no context,’’ he said. “Things look a lot worse than they are.

“There was a feeling around the team that wasn’t quite right, basically because of the way we were playing. No one felt really comfortable because we weren’t ourselves.’’

That changed after the meeting.

“A couple of guys have found that comfort zone,’’ said Epstein. “We’re not doing anything we’re not capable of. We’re just playing good, clean baseball.’’

Cameron feels ‘great’
Mike Cameron, out since April 18 with an abdominal strain, will be examined today by team doctor Thomas Gill. If that goes well, the next step would be starting a minor league rehab assignment. “I feel great,’’ Cameron said. “But they need to make sure I’m healing and it’s safe to do more.’’ A similar determination will soon be made with Jacoby Ellsbury. “We’re trying to get the most information, when’s the best timetable,’’ Francona said. “I don’t think we can force that. We need these guys to be healthy as opposed to having a timetable.’’

Triple threat
The Red Sox have two triples, both by Youkilis, an unlikely speedster who hit a ball to the base of the wall in center in the seventh inning and raced to third. His first three-bagger came on Opening Day . . . Fourteen of Jeremy Hermida’s 16 RBIs have come with two outs . . . John Smoltz, who spent part of last season with the Sox before unofficially retiring, was at the game working as an analyst for MLB Network. He has signed up to try to qualify for the US Open golf tournament . . . J.D. Drew and former Red Sox stars Nomar Garciaparra and Fred Lynn were among the 25 players named to the College World Series Legends Team, as announced by the NCAA yesterday . . . Ever sit around with your friends and recite the funniest lines from the classic baseball comedy, “Major League’’? That’s what Clay Buchholz, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Van Every, and Youkilis were doing in the dugout before batting practice. Buchholz does a solid imitation of Harry Doyle, the announcer played by Bob Uecker.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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