By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON Manager Terry Francona has set his rotation for the four-game series against the Rays beginning Thursday at Fenway Park and Josh Beckett has been penciled in to start for the first time since spraining his ankle on Sep. 5.
Right-hander Kyle Weiland will start the opener, opposed by righty Jeremy Hellickson. Beckett will start Friday, facing righty James Shields. Jon Lester will pitch Saturday against right-hander Jeff Niemann. In the finale on Sunday, Tim Wakefield will pitch against lefty David Price.
John Lackey is scheduled to pitch one of the games in Mondays doubleheader against the Orioles at Fenway.
The nice thing, because we have a lot of pitchers, its not disturbing that maybe you start a guy that can't go deep or maybe you dont plan on going deep. So well see, Francona said.
Francona opted for Weiland over lefty Andrew Miller, believing a righty would give his team a better chance.
I think we felt with the righty against them, he had a real good bullpen session, Francona said. I just think the other day down in Tampa those were tough circumstances for Weiland playing against them and he got through his first inning going four innings in a 6-5 loss. I just think he can rise to the occasion and give us a chance to win. I don't doubt Andrew would do the same thing.
David Ortiz was out of the lineup again Wednesday. Francona said the DH, who was scratched before his first at-bat Tuesday, is sore but moving better. Francona would only use Ortiz to pinch-hit if Ortiz felt up to it.
If he was OK, we certainly could, Francona said. I dont know that he is, though. If you see him hitting, you know he felt better.
There is still no timetable on a return to the rotation for lefty Erik Bedard, who has been limited by knee and lat ailments.
I think he feels once he feels good enough, he can pitch, which is a little unique, Francona said. Saying that, he played catch yesterday. That was kind of the firstand hes going to do it again today. So I dont know how close we are to having him pitch. Wed love for him to pitch. We dont want to rush him to pitch because thats not going to help anybody. So we just take it day by day and see if hes ready.
We know where were at. We need to win games but we also dont want to make decisions based on urgency where we end up hurting him as opposed to helping him.
Francona on the impact of having Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia, both 20-home run, 20-stolen base offensive threats in his lineup:
The majority of the year theyre hitting first or second. The fact that they can help us win so many different ways, whether its hitting the ball out of the ballpark, steal a base, defensively, extra-base hits, it speaks for itself. I think people look at Jacoby and certainly see the athleticism. With Pedey I think you have to watch him and now certainly his reputation precedes him but because hes a very similar player.
It is the first time the Sox have had two 2020 players in one season.
Francona, who is not a fan of expanded rosters at this time in the season, also sees their value, particularly on days such as Mondays doubleheader.
Im glad we have extra pitchers but I dont agree with the rule, he said. I dont think its fair when you play 25 all year and all of a sudden one team might play with 35 and one will play with 30. I do think that every day you have to submit a roster. Im thrilled we have extra pitching but I still dont think its fair.
I just think it would probably make sense. Some uniformity is probably good.
Francona, decidedly not a hockey fan, is an advocate of a hockey-type system: 40 players on the roster with 25 chosen for each game.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.