Notes: Lugo expresses remorse
Shortstop, Francona discuss ill-advised steal attempt
BOSTON -- After an ugly 5-4 Red Sox loss on Saturday night, in which Julio Lugo's ill-informed attempt to steal third seemingly overshadowed the rest of the team's offensive troubles, the struggling Red Sox shortstop slipped out of the Boston clubhouse before talking to media or even his manager, Terry Francona.
On Sunday morning, Lugo and Francona had a thoughtful discussion about the incident, arguably the lowest moment of a month in which Lugo batted .089. Francona said clearing the air on Saturday night would have been difficult, even counterproductive.
"That's like making decisions on the team after a 16-0 loss," Francona said. "It's hard to see straight. Sometimes it's easier [when] you wake up, take a deep breath, and then you can talk logically. Which is what I wanted to do. And we did."
Francona said Lugo expressed remorse about the play, the first time a catcher had nabbed him stealing this year. Lugo thought Kevin Youkilis had fouled the ball, explaining the awkwardness of his collision at third base with the Rangers' Ramon Vazquez.
"It got compounded," Francona said. "He didn't slide and it looked bad."
Lugo sat in favor of Alex Cora again on Sunday. Francona talked about the importance of getting the Red Sox's shortstop back on track, and added that Lugo would probably be back in the starting lineup on Monday against the Rangers' Brandon McCarthy.
"We need to work through the tough times and see the better times coming," the skipper said.
Ellsbury's impact: Rookie Jacoby Ellsbury was in the starting lineup again on Sunday, one day after legging out a routine ground ball for his first Major League hit, thrilling the Fenway Park crowd.
After the game, bench coach Brad Mills viewed tape to record Ellsbury's time down the first-base line. The mark: 3.9 seconds.
"That's pretty fast," Francona said. He compared his rookie to Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki.
But Suzuki, he added, routinely turns and leaves the batter's box before he has completed the full circuit of his swing. It's a tactic the former American League MVP has used to beat out countless singles in his 1,427-hit career.
Ellsbury's hit, Francona said, "was a full swing."
Michael Young, who made the late throw, seemed just as surprised as everyone else, looking agape into the Red Sox dugout after the play.
Francona sees bunt hits in Ellsbury's future.
"That's part of his game," Francona said. "As it should be. He's got bunt hits, but even if he doesn't, if the corners have to respect the bunt, I can't tell you how many hits that's going to get him."
Timlin makes progress: One day after reliever Mike Timlin pitched only his third perfect inning this season, Francona mapped out the Red Sox's strategy for returning the 41-year-old reliever -- who has been dogged by injuries -- to full effectiveness. The team will not be afraid to pitch Timlin in close situations, but will generally try to find opportunities for him when it can.
"We're trying to not be inconsistent," Francona said. "We're getting him in games, even if it means getting into games when we're down, or up, or what. Just so we can get the work. So we can work him into a role where there's some comfort."
Lowell sits: Mike Lowell, still bothered by a sore thumb, sat on Sunday for the first time since riding the bench for two games during the team's June 18-20 Atlanta series.
He was replaced in the lineup by third baseman Eric Hinske, who is four for his last seven with a home run.
"And if [the Rangers] want to bring in those tough lefties, we've got Lowell in there waiting," Francona said. "We don't usually line up this many lefties, but we can [change] if we want to."
Center fielder Coco Crisp, who continues to be bothered by thumb pain, registered only slight improvement on Sunday, and continues to be monitored by the team.
Pedroia rolls: After reaching base twice in five at-bats at Fenway Park on Saturday night, Dustin Pedroia concluded his second straight torrid month.
After batting .333 (31 for 93) in June following a .415 May, the diminutive second baseman is batting .319 for the season, second among rookies.
Francona recalled some initial disappointment in Pedroia when he first saw him during Spring Training.
"He walked into the clubhouse carrying a McDonald's bag about seven days in a row," Francona said. "It was like, we need to talk to this kid ... because we wanted him to play second base this year. And he went and worked his rear end off. Good for him."
On deck: The Red Sox will call on second-year starter Kason Gabbard, who struggled in a loss at Seattle on Tuesday upon his recall from Triple-A Pawtucket, yielding six hits and six walks in 3 1/3 innings. He has never faced the Rangers. Texas' McCarthy, who gets hitters out with diving breaking stuff thrown from his 6-foot-7 frame, will start against Gabbard. He has not pitched since June 9 with a blister on his right middle finger.
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.