Beckett returns to rotation Friday vs. Jays

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Beckett returns to rotation Friday vs. Jays

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.

McAdam: More firsts for Ortiz in what looks like stellar final season

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McAdam: More firsts for Ortiz in what looks like stellar final season

CHICAGO -- It could happen Thursday night, or perhaps sometime this weekend in New York, where he always hits well.
      
But sometime soon, David Ortiz is going to tie, then surpass, Carl Yastrzesmski as the second-greatest home run hitter in Red Sox history.
      
Ortiz hit his sixth of the season Wednesday night, giving him 451 for his Red Sox career, one behind Yastrzemski. Ted Williams is, of course, the Red Sox' all-time leader with 521, safely out of reach.
      
"Know what happens when that's happening?'' asked Ortiz, when told of the approaching milestone. "I'm getting old, man. Like I always say, whenever they mention your name right next to the legends, it's something that, humbly I can tell you, is an honor.''
      
What makes Ortiz's spot on the list all the more amazing is that he has reached these heights after being discarded by the Minnesota Twins some 14 years ago.
      
He arrived as a backup first baseman, initially stuck behind Jeremy Giambi on the Red Sox depth chart. He'll retire, later this year, as one of the handful of best hitters the franchise has ever known.
      
On nights like Wednesday, the context seemed to have Ortiz himself in awe.
      
"I was just a guy who was trying to have a good career,'' said Ortiz, “and put (my) family in a better situation. Now, all of a sudden, these things are happening. It's a blessing.''
      
It's a stretch to suggest that these things are happening "all of a sudden.'' To the contrary, they're the result of a remarkable stretch of 14 seasons in Boston.
     
Only now are the numbers coming into focus. And what numbers they are.
      
Beyond Ortiz's ascension on the all-time lists for the both Major League Baseball and the Red Sox in particular are the improbable feats of a 40-year-old who is performing this season at a level that would be impressive for a hitter a decade younger.
      
Consider:
      
* When Ortiz homered off Yankees reliever Dellin Betances last Friday, he did so on a first-pitch curveball. Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated noted that Betances had thrown 355 first-pitch curveballs in his career; Ortiz was the first to hit a homer on one of those pitches.
      
In fact, only six of the first 355 had even been put in play.
      
Ortiz hit his well into the Monster Seats to snap a 2-2 tie and send the Red Sox to a 4-2 victory.
      
* On Wednesday night, Ortiz became the first lefthanded hitter to ever homer off White Sox lefty starter Carlos Rodon.
      
Since last July 2, Ortiz is third among all lefthanded hitters in hitting homers off lefthanded pitchers. That's quite an accomplishment for someone who was being benched as recently as last June against some lefty starters.
     
And what did Rodon learn about that particular showdown?
      
"Don't throw a fastball down the middle to Big Papi,'' said Rodon.
      
Sounds like a good strategy.
      
It's fairly amazing that a 40-year-old, in his final season, is enjoying all these firsts. But Ortiz has lasted this long, and played at such a high level, precisely because he works to get better all the time.
      
Manager John Farrell noted that Ortiz hadn't faced Rodon before Wednesday night and didn't look particularly good in his first two at-bats, grounding into a double play and hitting a flyout.
      
But Ortiz is forever making mental notes, getting ready to make adjustments and process what he's seen.
      
"His retention is great,'' marveled Farrell. "He understands what he's seeing after just one at-bat.''
      
There's still more than five months to go in the regular season and a lot can happen in that span. But after a month in 2016, it seems likely that we are in the midst of one of the greatest final seasons a player has ever enjoyed.