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BAL@TEX: Atkins hurls six frames of one-run ball

When the Orioles and Red Sox play their final game before the All-Star break Sunday afternoon, Baltimore's Mitch Atkins will boast more seniority than Boston's Kyle Weiland.

While Atkins has only one career start under his belt, Weiland will be making his Major League debut, filling in for injured Red Sox ace Jon Lester, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left latissimus muscle.

While manager Terry Francona said he hasn't seen the right-hander pitch before, he's read reports and knows Weiland added a cutter to his repertoire.

"There's always some talk of, 'OK, does this kid transition into the bullpen as a seventh- or eighth-inning guy?'" Francona said. "But you certainly want to see if they can start first. He's taken his starters' innings, and he's started to strike out a lot of guys. That's always a first priority. So it'll be fun."

With Triple-A Pawtucket this season, Weiland is 8-6 with a 3.00 ERA. He's also struck out 99 in 93 innings and walked only 37.

"We're excited about this," Francona said. "I'm not glad we're all banged up, but when you get to bring kids up like this, it is really exciting for us."

Meanwhile, Atkins will try and build off a fantastic first start.

The 25-year-old gave up only one run on eight hits in six innings of work against the Rangers on Tuesday in a no-decision. Mixing his fastball, cutter and curveball, Atkins kept the Rangers off balance, walking none and striking out four.

With the Red Sox having a potent offense just like Rangers, Atkins said his main goal is to attack the hitters and try to not fall behind.

"I felt good, I feel like I belong and I'm getting to know these guys," Atkins said. "I feel more comfortable starting than coming out of the 'pen, because it's what I'm used to doing. So I'm trying to take it one start at a time and see how things go."

Orioles: Britton optioned
• Rookie Zach Britton was optioned to Double-A Bowie on Saturday, a day after he recorded only two outs and allowed eight runs (seven earned) in a 10-3 loss to the Red Sox.

The left-hander started the season going 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA in April, but he's gone just 2-5 since then and has posted a 6.86 ERA over his last eight starts.

Red Sox: Papi apologizes
• While David Ortiz threw a few punches at Kevin Gregg in the Red Sox's 10-3 win over the Orioles on Friday, he spent Saturday telling the media he wasn't proud of his actions, yet believes Gregg deserves blame for starting the fracas.

"I feel like I was pushed last night to do something like that," said Ortiz, who charged Gregg after Baltimore's closer yelled a few unkind words his way following an eighth-inning fly out. "This is a guy that I always face, and he never pitches in. He throws a whole bunch of pitches inside, and I'm pretty sure he was trying to hit me. No question about that. After I hit the fly ball, he started screaming at me. I'm not going to take that.

"You saw the argument before, and after that, you are going to act like you are my daddy or something like that? I'm not going to take that. Everybody is a grown man here, and if you want to have respect, you have to respect [others]."

• Josh Beckett's fate for Tuesday's All-Star Game will most likely be decided after throwing a side session Sunday, Francona said Saturday. Beckett mildly hyperextended his left knee Friday after he slipped on a wet mound.

"Josh is going to go out and play catch today, which he'd normally do," Francona said. "Tomorrow morning, he'll throw a side [session], and we'll kind of reevaluate him from there -- obviously not just for his start going forward with us, but All-Star ramifications."

Worth noting
• Mike Bordick has been elected into the Orioles Hall of Fame, with induction set for Aug. 13 against the Tigers.

• Before being called up, Weiland led all Triple-A pitchers in opponents' batting average at .206 (69-for-335).

• The Red Sox have scored 62 first-inning runs this season, the second most in the Majors behind the Yankees (67).

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