CHICAGO -- Assorted pre-game tidbits from U.S. Cellular Field:
Bobby Valentine seems to be going to great lengths to head off any talk that Kelly Shoppach has become Josh Beckett's personal catcher.
Shoppach is in the lineup today despite the fact that the White Sox are pitching Gavin Floyd, a righthander. Shoppach has usually been restricted to playing against lefties.
Asked about Shoppach's presence in the lineup today, Valentine said: "Actually, it's his birthday. I like playing players on birthdays.''
Shoppach turns 32 Sunday.
Valentine was asked if he liked the "pairing'' of Shoppach and Beckett.
"I like all the pairings,'' he said. "The way it looks right now, it looks like our pitchers and catchers are working very well together.''
Shoppach has caught Beckett's last three starts, with a 2.35 ERA. In his only start with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Beckett was rocked
for seven runs in four innings.
"They have a little something going,'' said Valentine of Beckett and Shoppach. "I'm not writing home about it yet.
Oddly, Shoppach has been hitting better against righthanded pitching this year than lefties. He's .429 (6-for-14) against righties and just .167 (2-for-12) against lefties.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, who pitched over the weekend for Double A Portland as part of his rehab scheduled, will make his next start for Pawtucket on Thursday.
The Pawsox will be in Toledo for a four-game series starting Monday.
With a win today, the Sox would sweep a road trip of at least seven games for only the second time in franchise history. The last one was 9-0 trip from July 29-Aug. 7, 1977 when the Sox won three games in Anaheim, two in Seattle and four in Oakland.
Valentine praised the defensive play of second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the road trip.
"I guess you guys are used to it,'' he said to reporters. "I haven't seen it. Every day he comes up with a great play. Or two or three, that are spectacular. Unbelievable. He's special.''
Valentine said Pedroia has exceeded even his own expectations.
"Even more than I thought,'' he marveled. "And I had great (expectations). Seeing it is believing it.''
Valentine wouldn't go so far as to say that Pedroia is the best defensive second baseman he's managed ("I had Robbie Alomar'').
"I don't love comparisons like that,'' said Valentine, "but Dustin's played great.''