Notes: Lugo providing spark at the top
Leadoff man adds speed on basepaths to Sox's arsenal
OAKLAND -- Boston shortstop Julio Lugo edged off first base during a recent game in Fenway Park against the New York Yankees. As left-hander Andy Pettitte started into his motion, he took off for second.The problem was Pettitte, who has one of the best pickoff moves in the business, guessed right and threw to first. Lugo never hesitated, though, and just beat the throw to second to earn his 17th steal of the year. He has yet to be thrown out. While speed helped Lugo in that case, it takes more than just being fast to become a successful basestealer -- even against a pitcher like Pettitte, who has 94 career pickoffs. "I knew he intended to pick me off, but I just kept going," Lugo said. "I knew it was going to be a difficult throw for the first baseman. Luckily I just beat the throw." The Red Sox don't exactly exude speed, though they have their moments -- think Dave Roberts in Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series. Lugo and Coco Crisp (12 steals in 14 tries) give Boston that added dimension. Lugo, who stole a career-high 39 bases in 2005 for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, credits coaches at every level for his basestealing prowess. "I've had coaches give me tips about all aspects of the game," Lugo said. "It's about the right moment and the right situation. There are more important things than speed, like getting a good jump and knowing the catcher." Lugo may be struggling offensively, hitting .225, but he's been productive from the top of the order. He leads all leadoff hitters with 33 RBIs to go with his 17 steals. "I'm producing well," he said. "I know my average will be there. I'm getting hits when it counts." He's not waiting for things to change either. He was part of a group who went out for early batting practice on Wednesday. "I just want to get out of this difficult time," Lugo said. "I want this thing to go away. I'm making contact; I'm just not hitting the ball where I want." New Drew: Red Sox manager Terry Francona decided to give outfielder J.D. Drew another day to get his legs back and to work with hitting coach Dave Magadan. Francona also indicated that A's left-hander Joe Kennedy is tough on left-handed hitters. "It's a combination of everything," Francona said. "I know he's not going well right now, but there's a right-hander going tomorrow and it's a 12:30 game. It makes sense to me." Drew has four hits in his last 35 at-bats (.114) and had to sit out a couple of recent games with a right hamstring strain. "There's nothing more than we'd like to do than get him on a roll," Francona said. "He will play. When he's swinging it, he's part of our best lineup." Draft day tension: Brad Mills, Francona's bench coach, hopes to have a chance to celebrate with his 20-year-old son, Beau, on Thursday following the First-Year Player Draft. Beau Mills, a junior at Lewis-Clark State College, is a projected first round pick. The Oakland A's provided the Mills family, who are from Visalia, Calif., with a suite. The Draft begins 90 minutes before the Red Sox's scheduled game time. Brad Mills will stay with his family until he has to return to the dugout. "Hopefully Beau will be drafted before the first pitch," Francona said. "Brad seems to be enjoying it. And why not? His kid is going to get drafted and be able to play professional baseball." Beau Mills was named the NAIA Player of the Year after helping lead the Warriors to a national title this spring. He set an NAIA single-season record with 38 home runs. He also hit .453, drove in 123 runs and had a slugging percentage of 1.033. The younger Mills spent his first two years at Fresno State, where he hit 36 home runs to become the Bulldogs' all-time left-handed home run hitter. Extra bases: Don't expect Francona and the Red Sox to make wholesale changes to the roster for Interleague Play, which resumes on Friday in Arizona. "It's not prudent to redo your roster for a three-game series," Francona said. "You usually don't know if you needed an extra player or pitcher until after the series." One move seems certain. Right-hander Mike Timlin is expected to return to the Majors on Saturday. The Red Sox will need clear a space on the 25-man roster for the 41-year-old reliever. Up next: Right-hander Curt Schilling (5-2, 3.91 ERA) takes the mound for Thursday's 3:35 p.m. ET matinee and series finale against A's righty Joe Blanton (5-3, 3.81). Schilling is 3-3 in 12 career games against Oakland.
Rick Eymer is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.