By Maureen Mullen
CSNNE.com Follow @maureenamullen
BOSTON First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who left Wednesdays game with a tight left calf, and designated hitter David Ortiz, who missed the last two games because of back spasms, are back in the starting lineup for the opener of the four-game series against the Rays at Fenway Park.
I dont think youre going to see Gonzalez steal a base, probably wont see him steal a base when hes 100 percent, said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. He feels good enough to play, which is great. Davids still sore, but hes good enough to play. Think this time of year, think they understand their responsibilities. Well keep an eye on them.
Both of them wouldnt play if they didnt think they could be productive. Or we wouldnt let them play. Well watch them during BP.
This will be a crucial series against the Rays, who trail the Sox by four games in the wild card race, with 14 games to play. Asked if the two would be playing if his team had a more comfortable lead, perhaps 10 games, Francona replied:
Probably not. Probably not, to be real honest. For me, these are important games.
Clay Buchholz threw again before Thursday's game and is expected to have a full bullpen session on Saturday.
Everythings been terrific, actually, Francona said. If theres a point where we need to slow him down, we will. A couple of things were trying to accomplish. One is, we havent closed the door on the fact that he might be able to pitch, which is certainly important.
The other thing is we want him to go home feeling good about himself. This kid is an important part of not only our present but also our future. I think its come together well. Hes done a good job.
I think we have an obligation to map some things out but its going to all go on how he feels. How he throws. I mean, we dont know, youre talking about a guy that hasnt thrown very much. He gets on the mound and his back feels great, he still needs to pitch, so we need to take that all into consideration.
Kevin Youkilis was asked if the Sox are treating this like a playoff series.
I think you just go out and play, he said. You play every pitch. Not me personally, i just go out and play the game as hard as i can. Then tomorrow willl be tomorrow. You dont look at the series. You look at the game in front of you.
Asked how he was feeling after playing the last few games, he replied:
Nothings changed. So just going out and playing.
I go out every day and wake up and if i can play, Ill try to play. Thats the decisions that are made from the top. Im here every day and Im going to try my best to play in every game possible.
I dont think there's one that stands out thats like harder to do. I think when youre injured and stuff like that, things are not easy to do. Theres restrictions and i cant play the elite level i want to play at at times. But there are things you can do. Get on base. Get hits. You can drive the ball, you can do stuff to win, but Im not going to be stealing bases and going first to home probably on a lot of balls.
"The running is probably not going to be 100 percent till next year. Luckily Im not the slowest guy on the team, which maybe at 80 percent i can still stay not the slowest guy on the team.
Francona addressed the recent issues with Daniel Bard, stemming from another blown hold yesterday.
I think wed be kidding ourselves, he said. I dont think we can win without Bard being Bard. I remember, last year at this time everybody wanted bard to be the closer. We stuck with Pap and hes done OK. I think there are certain players where we better figure it out as opposed to running from guys. Certainly, you know with Matt Albers, weve adjusted his role. Sometimes if they havent pitched, maybe youll use a guy in a different role because you want to get them work, if theyve been struggling.
I think we believe in Daniel so much that wed like to, I hope he gets that situation again.
Mike Cather, currently a Sox advance scout and previously the pitching coach for Double-A Portland, is with the team. Bard said after Wednesdays game he would talk with those who are familiar with his mechanics.
Well, hes our advanced scout, he was scheduled to be here, Francona said. I called him last night and said get with Curt Young, the pitching coach with the video. There are some things they would like to get a little more consistent with his arm swing, which I think will be helpful.
The hard thing to do is doing that in the course of a stretch where you want him to pitch. Theyll go out there and work on it today. Its just getting a little more consistent feel with his arm swing to where hes a little more consistent with his release point.
Saying that, if you go back and look at his good streak, he can vary it then too. So, you want to keep it in perspective as well.
Part of Bards problems have been in 0-and-2 counts.
Inconsistency, especially his fastball command, Francona said. Again, you look back to the Tampa game, I thought that was a really good pitch. He threw a neck-high fastball 98. We were in a bind and I thought he made a good pitch to a good hitter. Sometimes you can go through a bad stretch and make it look worse.
Yesterday, he got to two strikes, kind of held onto it little bit, it cut over the middle, ends up being a single up the middle.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen.