BOSTON With the Red Sox mired in one of their worst starts to a season in their history (only three other Sox editions have started 2-10 in 1996, 1927, and 1925) manager Terry Francona shuffled his lineup for Saturdays game against the Blue Jays and left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes.
Jed Lowrie is leading off and playing shortstop. Carl Crawford will get a rest today as he tries to get out of his season-long slump, with Darnell McDonald playing left field. Jason Varitek will catch for right-hander Josh Beckett. And Mike Cameron will play right field instead of J.D. Drew.
Having a day game after a night game and facing a possible five left-handed starts in a stretch of six games also factored into his decision.
Were in a stretch where were facing a loft of lefties, Francona said. Because of layoffs and maybe not playing a few guys even like a Tuesday. With a quick turnaround today, some of Reyes style of pitching, get a couple of righties in there and try to have some balance. We were trying to get to Monday with Carl. Monday looked like a real good day to give him a day to kind of regroup. But bench coach DeMarlo Hale and I sat around a lot. Hes the one I kind of bounce more stuff of than anything and then we went to Carl and said, 'This is what were trying to do, and I think he really wanted to play, which we like. But I think it would do him more good to take a little bit of a breath this morning and just let things slow down for him.
Theres no doubt in anybodys mind this guys is going to be everything everybody thinks. Hes too good but hes going through a really tough time.
Crawford, who is batting .137 with one extra-base hit (a double), thought the break might do him good.
It gives you a chance to relax and watch the game from a different angle, he said. Just kind of get back into focus, I guess.
He acknowledged he might be trying too hard in each at-bat.
Im going to always so no, but from the outside looking in, I guess Im trying to do too much, he said. Im probably trying a little bit too hard and probably not even trying to do a little bit at a time, trying to do too much at one time. I feel normal but I guess I probably am trying to do too much.
Crawford doesnt remember going through a stretch like this.
Not like this bad, he said. This is definitely new territory for me. So I just got to figure out a way to get up out of it. Hopefully at some point things will turn around.
With the team performing just as poorly, Crawford said, he takes his rough start to the season that much harder.
Yeah, its just bad all around right now, he said. Its so stormy. Its tough because the teams not winning and youre not hitting well. You have to take all that and be strong enough to try to stay focused and do the things that you do well. So its tough right now.
Jed Lowrie, who is batting .471 (8-for-17), one of the few productive Red Sox batters, is batting lead-off for the first time in his career
Thats probably not long term, Francona said. Carls not playing today. We want to have some balance in the lineup. The one thing we know Jeds going to do: hes going to give us four or five really good at-bats. And maybe that can help us win a game today.
Lowrie had a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth inning Friday night and has reach base safely in eight of his last 11 plate appearances over his last four games. In that stretch he is hitting .700 (7-for-10) with two doubles, two RBI, two runs scored, and a walk.
His .471 average leads American Leaguers with at least 10 at-bats this season.
Right-hander Matt Albers, on the disabled list since April 6 with a right lat strain, will make rehab appearances with Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday and Tuesday.
Pitching coach Curt Young turns 51 today. Lowrie turns 27 Sunday
The Red Sox conducted on-field photo day for fans before Saturdays game against the Rays. Fans were allowed onto the warning track to take pictures with the players.
Kids will be allowed to run the bases after Sundays game, weather permitting.
MaureenMullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen