Notes: Red Sox rotation still in flux

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Notes: Red Sox rotation still in flux

By MaureenMullen
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Jon Lester is scheduled to start Tuesday in Toronto, followed by John Lackey on Wednesday. Beyond that, the Red Sox rotation is not known at this point.

Not yet, said manager Terry Francona. Give us until tomorrow. Were going to try to get a couple of things back in a little bit different order.

With the pitching shuffled around over the last few games for various reasons ailments, and the infamous 13-inning game among them Francona will likely take advantage of the off-day Thursday before the start of a three-game series in New York to reset his rotation. One of the factors he will likely consider is separating Daisuke Matsuzaka and Josh Beckett, who have started back-to-back days, Sunday and Monday.

Jason Varitek has been catching for both right-handers. Giving the 39-year-old catcher a day off between their starts would be preferable.

Lackey was in the bullpen Sunday. With long relievers Tim Wakefield and Alfredo Aceves unavailable because of their outings on Friday, Lackey would have been called upon in a worst-case scenario.

We had Lack out there just in case something really went wrong ball off the
shin, something like that, Francona said. Aceves said he was available. We
werent real comfortable with that. He said he was fine. So we appreciate that
but we didn't want to do that.

Aceves and Wakefield are available today.

Daniel Bard and Jonathan Papelbon have been stabilizers in the bullpen this season.

Its nice to know that theres an end in sight, Francona said. Some games dont go exactly the way you want. But then you get to Bard and Pap and it doesnt guarantee that you're going to win but youve gotten where you need to and then you dont have two guys throwing out in the bullpen and trying to match up and worrying about that. I dont think Bards had a lot of clean innings. Hes come in with runners on base a lot. And hes so good at it. Thats been very helpful.

Matt Albers has also been a blessing. This is a kid who was competing for a spot. And hes been going multiple innings for us, facing lefties and righties."

Although Papelbon didnt have his best showing in spring training, Francona is hesitant to attribute that to the "red light" effect when players wait for the season to start, saving their best performances for meaningful games.

I hate to say that because I think thats a scary way for us to go into the season, Francona said. Hey, the light's going to come on. Sometimes that helps guys, though, for sure. They seem to add a little bit of velocity and a bit more crispness to their pitches but he has been throwing the ball very well. Location, his splits been there, hes throwing an occasional breaking ball but hes not scattering his fastball. Last year there was a lot of nights where hed have to kind of bring it back in. Hed throw three or four or five in a row up, arm side. More often than not hed get the save but hed have to fight for it. Hes been pretty good so far.

The split comes out of the same arm slot as his fastball and if the fastballs down then the splits down with it. Thats a good combination.

Jose Iglesias is not in the starting lineup for the series finale with the Twins. Its an adjustment for young players, especially high-profile prospects, to get used to not starting.

It sure is, Francona said. Theyre used to a routine and their routine is showing up, taking their ground balls, hitting wherever theyll hit in the order and playing the game. We talked to Iggy about that yesterday. Just that exact same thing.

In his 17-game hitting streak, the best active streak among major leaguers, Jacoby Ellsbury is hitting .378 (28-for-74) with 14 runs scored, 10 doubles, eight RBI, and seven stolen bases. Francona said he has not seen Ellsbury change his approach at the plate, just be more successful with it.

Sometimes you dont see the ball, sometimes you miss pitches, sometimes you get pitched to better, Francona said. Confidence grows. His mechanics havent changed. Hes just doing it better.

Hes using the entire field, driving the ball to left field, turning on the ball in, hitting the ball up the middle. Hes hitting the ball to all three fields and with speed like that if you do that -- we usually talk about things evening out. Im not sure theyre supposed to even out when you can run that fast and you use the entire field. I think youre going to get more hits than you're supposed to.

Carl Crawford has an eight-game hitting streak, in which he is 12-for-31 (.387), raising his average to .211.

It looks like things are starting to slow down a little bit, Francona said. Everything was so rushed. And its still at times like that but the balls not in the mitt. Hes seeing it a little better, seeing it a little quicker out of the hand, reacting better. Im sure it looks like its slowing down for him. He has that big open stance and when he would get back to square I think it was taking him a little longer than he realized, so hed get that foot down and the ball was already coming across the plate.

Maureen Mullen is on Twitter athttp:twitter.commaureenamullen

Report: Red Sox DH target Beltran agrees to 1-year deal with Astros

Report: Red Sox DH target Beltran agrees to 1-year deal with Astros

Carlos Beltran, the 39-year-old switch hitter who was a potential target of the Red Sox as a DH, agreed to a free-agent deal with the Houston Astros, ESPN's Buster Olney reported.

FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal reports that it's a one-year, $16 million deal. 

Beltran played for the Astros in 2004. He was dealt from the New York Yankees to the Texas Rangers at the July 31 trading deadline last season. He totaled 35 homers, 101 RBI and hit .295 in 2016. 

The Red Sox, looking to fill the void left by David Ortiz's retirement, will be looking for a DH at the Winter Meetings that begin next week. One possibility is the return of Mike Napoli, who played for the A.L. champion Cleveland Indians last season.

More on the Winter Meetings here from CSN Red Sox Insider Sean McAdam.