Red Sox notebook

Lineup balance will be tested

Francona braces for lefty starters

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / April 16, 2011

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The Red Sox have five lefthanded hitters in their regular lineup, ostensibly a problem against lefthanded starting pitchers.

After last night’s 7-6 loss to Toronto and southpaw Brett Cecil, the Sox are 1-4 with a .204 batting average against lefty starters. But manager Terry Francona remains convinced his struggling team will eventually find its way.

“I think we’ll hit everybody,’’ Francona said.

That resolve will be tested in the coming days as the Sox are scheduled to face a lefty starter in four of the next five games. Toronto is set to start Jo-Jo Reyes today and Ricky Romero Monday. The Athletics have Brett Anderson and Gio Gonzalez for the two-game series that starts Tuesday in Oakland.

“We’re probably going to see [mostly] lefthanders if at all possible. That’s the way the league works,’’ Francona said.

Francona will do some creative lineup juggling. He has righthanded-hitting Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald on his bench along with switch-hitters Jed Lowrie and Jason Varitek.

All four were on the bench to start last night’s game. The Sox faced a lefty starter Tuesday, were rained out Wednesday, and had a scheduled day off Thursday. As a result, Francona used his regular lineup last night.

“I wanted to have the guys play. For a lot of them it had been four days. That’s too long for them not to play in a game,’’ he said. “It ends up being counterproductive. They have another lefty [today], it’s a day game after a night game. We can do some shifting the next couple of days. I didn’t want to do it today.’’

Designated hitter David Ortiz, who struggled against lefties last season, was 6 of 14 with a home run against them through the first 11 games.

“I think I need to be aware of where is the best time not to play David because we need him,’’ Francona said. “I’m certainly not going to sit him five days in a row. I want to look ahead and see when the best days to get [bench players] in are.’’

The same is true for right fielder J.D. Drew and, to a lesser extent, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

“I’m trying to find the right days. If we’re going to face [lefthanders] in a row, find the right day where it helps our guys a little bit,’’ Francona said. “If you’re going to sit somebody, I want there to be a good reason.’’

Home run overturned With two runners on via walks, Toronto’s Adam Lind drove a pitch to the base of the Pesky Pole in right field. First base umpire Paul Nauert signaled a home run after a pause.

Right fielder Drew, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and several thousand sharp-eyed fans immediately protested, as did Francona. The umpires agreed to review the call and after disappearing under the stands, returned to call it a foul ball.

It was the ninth review at Fenway Park since the replay system was started late in the 2008 season. Six of the original calls were overturned.

“I think we caught a break,’’ said Francona, noting how close the ball came to going out.

The umpires refused comment to a pool reporter.

Positive spin Josh Beckett starts this afternoon, his first game since throwing eight shutout innings and striking out 10 Yankees Sunday.

Francona is hoping that game was the start of a trend, if only to help Beckett’s confidence.

“It was a pretty good effort. For the longest time he was one of the elite pitchers in the game and he ran into some problems last year. When he’s good, he can do that,’’ Francona said. “You’re not going to do that every time out. But he can be one of the better pitchers in the game. That wasn’t a fluke. There was not a lot of solid contact.

“When you go out and put up a bunch of zeroes, you ought to feel good about yourself.’’

Beckett has struggled with the Jays. He is 3-6 with a 7.03 ERA in 14 career starts.

Honoring Robinson It was Jackie Robinson Day around the major leagues and all of the Red Sox and Blue Jays wore No. 42 in memory of the player who broke the color line in 1947. The Red Sox also recognized some Jackie Robinson scholars before the game.

Francona hopes the memory of the Hall of Famer serves as a lesson.

“What he did transcends way past baseball. I know there’s always a celebration of his life and what he did,’’ the manager said. “I hope maybe we learn a little bit and we don’t get too carried away with the fact that we’re treating people equal. I kind of hope it’s a little bit of a reminder what we did wrong as opposed to patting ourselves on the back.’’

Place picked up The Yankees signed outfielder Jason Place, a former first-round pick of the Sox who was released in spring training. Place was the 27th overall selection in 2006 out of Wren High in Piedmont, S.C. He signed for $1.3 million but hit only .234 over parts of five seasons and never climbed higher than Double A . . . Toronto placed infielder Edwin Encarnacion on the bereavement list. Outfielder Mike McCoy was called up from Triple A Las Vegas. The Jays also recalled lefthanded reliever Luis Perez after sending down lefthander Brad Mills Thursday . . . Thomas DiBenedetto, one of the Red Sox limited partners, led a group of investors who have a deal to purchase a 60 percent share of Roma, the three-time Italian Serie A champions in soccer. The group reportedly paid $100 million . . . Today is Photo Day at Fenway. Fans can enter through Gates A and D at 11:10 a.m. and line up to get photos with players starting at 11:40 for 35 minutes . . . Kids can run the bases after tomorrow’s game.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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