Epstein leaving no stone unturned
Boston (55-34) at Toronto (44-47), 1:07 p.m. ET
TORONTO -- While the Red Sox, owners of the best record in the American League, continue to roll, general manager Theo Epstein is in the final weeks of scrutiny season.
There is officially less than two weeks remaining before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and Epstein -- as he always is this time of year -- is in a crunch to determine what type of final pieces his team needs to make a run at a third World Series championship in the past six years.
One thing Epstein has proven in his six previous trade seasons as general manager is that he will leave no stone unturned. Aside from 2006, Epstein has made at least one significant deadline move every year.
"I think we don't have one glaring weakness, which I think speaks to the great job the players on this club have been doing in the first half," Epstein said. "At the same time, I think there are opportunities to get better. Exactly which opportunities we pursue or try to pursue relates probably more to health than anything else."
But Epstein can't guarantee who will stay healthy from Aug. 1 on, meaning he will do all he can to stockpile his roster with as much talent as possible.
Third baseman Mike Lowell returned from the disabled list on Friday, so the Red Sox hope his right hip will hold up down the stretch. Shortstop Jed Lowrie, who had left wrist surgery in April, will be activated for Saturday's game against the Blue Jays.
"We want to create as much depth and redundancy as we possibly can, because if you don't address depth before July 31 or in some cases in August, then you're left without an opportunity to do so down the stretch and into what we hope will be another postseason," Epstein said. "We're going to read and react based on our health and based on the way some guys are playing and try to build as deep and as strong a position player core as we can."
Will Epstein be tempted to pull off a blockbuster trade for someone like Roy Halladay, the ace right-hander who will face the Sox on Sunday?
Speaking in generalities, and not Halladay specifically, Epstein kept his options open.
"It's always tempting, but it always comes at great cost," Epstein said. "When you do it through the free-agent market, it comes at tremendous risk in terms of the years and dollars you have to spend, and if you do it through trade, it comes at tremendous cost -- your best and most promising prospects -- the core of your organization in a lot of ways."
While Epstein works the phones and evaluates the team, the Red Sox will try to keep winning.
"If we go out there and pitch the ball well, we're going to have a good second half," said Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis. "As long as our pitching staff holds up and we stay healthy all around, there's a good chance for us to try to win this division."
BOS: RHP Brad Penny (6-3, 4.71 ERA)
With 17 starts, Penny has already matched his season total from a year ago with the Dodgers. The right-hander has surrendered three runs or fewer in nine of his past 10 outings dating back to May 20, going 3-2 with a 3.45 ERA over that span. Penny is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA and a 15/3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in three career starts at Rogers Centre. TOR: LHP Mark Rzezczynski (0-1, 3.00 ERA)
Rzepczynski put up another quality start in Baltimore on Sunday, but he was tagged with the loss. In his second Major League start, Rzepczynski allowed three runs (all earned) on five hits in six innings. He issued three walks against five strikeouts, giving up a home run to Orioles designated hitter Oscar Salazar in the sixth inning. The rookie threw 94 pitches in the outing, 59 for strikes. Tidbits
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury missed Friday's game because of what manager Terry Francona called "intestinal turmoil." ... The Red Sox have won seven of their past 10 on the road. ... Right-hander Daniel Bard hasn't allowed a run in his past six outings. Tickets
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Sunday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 8-6, 3.87) at Blue Jays (Roy Halladay, 10-3, 2.85), 1:07 p.m. ET
Monday: Red Sox (John Smoltz, 1-2, 5.40) at Rangers (Kevin Millwood, 8-7, 3.46), 8:05 p.m. ET
Tuesday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 11-3, 3.35) at Rangers (Tommy Hunter, 1-1, 2.35), 8:05 p.m. ET
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.