FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When the Red Sox open their season at Kansas City on April 2, Mike Timlin will not be in the bullpen. Sox manager Terry Francona outlined a tentative plan for Timlin which targets the invaluable right-hander returning from his oblique injury right around the home opener, which is scheduled for April 10 against the Mariners.

"It's a schedule that's going to probably have him available, if everything goes correctly, probably after that first road trip," said Francona. "I think that's probably a pretty safe assessment. I don't think he was stunned, I don't think he was doing cartwheels, but I also think he understood when it was explained to him, it makes a lot of sense. Now, again, that might not be to the date, but there's some common sense in there."

Timlin strained his left oblique on Feb. 25 and hasn't been able to get into an exhibition game.

The most likely scenario now is that the Red Sox will place Timlin on the disabled list for the first six games of the season and retroactive the date so that he'll be ready for the home opener.

Timlin, along with Joel Pineiro, Brendan Donnelly and Julian Tavarez, had been in competition to win the closer's job.

Francona's main concern is to keep Timlin healthy for the long haul.

"He's in the mix to probably get 65 appearances," said Francona. "That's what we've come to rely on. We need him to be out in that bullpen the whole year. Love to have him ready on opening day. I don't think it's a smart idea to rush him, because I think we'd have a chance to lose a good pitcher, and I don't want to do that."

In the short term, Timlin will continue to play long toss and build his way back toward throwing off the mound.

"He threw at 120 feet today, nice and firm," said Francona. "He did three sets, he got to 120 on his last set. Tomorrow, he has the option of either not throwing or 60 feet playing catch. Then he'll go back out again to 120 [on Thursday]. His side is really feeling good. We want to make sure the shoulder and the arm [follow suit]."