BOSTON -- After going 5-1 in Philadelphia and St. Petersburg, including a three-game sweep of the American League East-leading Rays, the Red Sox find themselves back in the division race, trailing Tampa Bay by 5 1/2 games entering play Thursday.

Asked if he was surprised to find his team back in the race so quickly, Sox manager Terry Francona replied:

"I don't know if it's really healthy to think about that. When you talk about staying in the present, all those things that we do, I think when you do that correctly, you look up a week later and sometimes you've put a good week together. When you start looking at next week before, it doesn't work that way. You miss what you're supposed to pay attention to.

"That's why I say it so much, because I believe in it. Just pay attention to what you have to pay attention to, and that's today. If you made a mistake yesterday, you learn from it and move on. Same thing if you did something well. Don't pat yourself on the back too much. Just move on."

Ellsbury, Cameron, Victor out of lineup

BOSTON -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Cameron and Victor Martinez were all out of the starting lineup for Thursday's series opener against the Royals at Fenway Park.

Ellsbury, who missed 37 games with hairline fractures in four ribs on his left side, was activated Saturday. He has appeared in three games since, going 1-for-14 with a walk and two RBIs. He has also experienced pain in the area of the injury.

"He's been examined," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I mean, we have looked at the pictures. All the medical people are trying to look at everything. He's really tender. [Team medical director] Dr. [Tom] Gill will be here tonight. We'll try to meet again. We got to get to the bottom of this. We're not at the bottom of it. We don't want to rush into putting him on the DL. At the same time, he's not ready to play because of the way he feels. ... If we have to get more opinions, we'll do what we think is necessary.

"I think what I'm saying is that the pain was in a different area. It's got to be related. Whether he was compensating with the swing, that's what we're trying to figure out, but it's all related.

"It really doesn't feel better."

After Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Royals, Francona said Ellsbury would undergo further testing Friday morning.

"He'll be examined again [Friday], about 11 [a.m. ET]," Francona said. "I spoke to [Gill] and some of the medical people ... trying to figure out the best way to go through this. He'll have one more examination in the morning. Hopefully we'll have some more insight on what's the best way to go with this."

Cameron, who missed 34 games with a lower abdominal strain, was activated Tuesday. He was not in the lineup after playing in back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday, going 2-for-8 against the Rays.

"He's a little sore today," Francona said of Cameron. "I think we knew that. Getting in at 4:35 in the morning, playing on turf, there's a lot of things we knew we'd have to, I think I used the words 'finesse it' the other night, build in some rest for him, which we'll do."

With Ellsbury and Cameron out, Jeremy Hermida started in left and Bill Hall got the start in center against Kansas City.

Martinez has been nursing a sore left big toe, after leaving Monday's game against the Rays.

"It's hard to tell this afternoon," Francona said. "We got here so late just because of our arrival. He did a lot [Wednesday] -- BP, he did some throwing, he did some receiving. I think the hope is he'll run around the outfield today a little bit. We'd really like to catch him [Friday] because of [Tim Wakefield]. If he's not ready, he won't do it. I think he'll be ready to catch."

With Daisuke Matsuzaka pitching Thursday, Jason Varitek was behind the plate and hitting eighth.

Infielder Jed Lowrie, who has been out since Spring Training with mononucleosis, was in the clubhouse before the game after arriving in Boston on Wednesday night to be examined by the medical staff Thursday.

"He was looked at by various medical people just to eliminate I think some of the doubts maybe that he has, some of the fatigue he's feeling," Francona said. "I think he wants to know that he's OK, so it's maybe a normal tired instead of something that's eating at him that was missed or something like that. So [we're] just trying to eliminate some of the doubts in his mind."

Lowrie said he feels much better and is progressing with the illness. He was scheduled to head back to Fort Myers, Fla., where he has been since Spring Training, on Thursday.

"Fort Myers is where I need to be right now," he said.

Beckett slated for Friday side session

BOSTON -- Red Sox right-hander Josh Beckett, who has been on the disabled list since May 19 with a lower back strain, is on target to throw a side session Friday.

"I hope so," manager Terry Francona said before Thursday's game. "Things are backed up a little bit today because of our late arrival. I just went down to check with [pitching] coach [John] Farrell about that, and it's backed up a little bit. So if [Beckett] throws his side [Friday], everything has [gone] really well. If we need to back it up another day or whatever, we will."

Beckett, who is 1-1 with a 7.29 ERA, is eligible to come off the DL on June 3.

Dice-K out to make it 3-for-3 vs. KC

BOSTON -- After losing a no-hit bid with two outs in the eighth inning Saturday in Philadelphia, Daisuke Matsuzaka made his sixth start of the season Thursday against the Royals at Fenway Park.

That outing against the Phillies was dramatically different than Matsuzaka's previous appearance, when he lasted just 4 2/3 innings, giving up seven runs on nine hits and three walks with three strikeouts against the Yankees on May 17 at Fenway.

Manager Terry Francona was hopeful that Matsuzaka could carry his performance in Philadelphia into Thursday's game.

"I would think just about everybody's like that," he said. "That's the hope. If I were him coming off his last outing, I would feel good about myself. Now you've got to go out and make your pitches, but I think that's the whole idea. With Major League players, you see as the weather gets warm and the hitters once they start feeling good -- and the same thing goes with pitchers, as long as they're healthy -- you start seeing guys hold it together because they feel good, they've got some repetitions under their belt.

"And you get into July and August and batting practice can be overrated sometimes. Early in the season, when it's 30 degrees, at-bats, they don't carry over. When you take good swings, you got 45 minutes until the next at-bat, and it doesn't carry over. Once the weather starts getting warm, you got [a couple of] at-bats, those things carry over."

Matsuzaka has faced the Royals twice in his career, winning both starts and posting a 2.84 ERA. The last time he faced them was May 22, 2008, when he struck out seven, allowing just three runs over 5 2/3 innings in an 11-8 win at Fenway. He made his Major League debut in Kansas City on April 5, 2007, striking out 10.

West in Boston to umpire series

BOSTON -- Umpire Joe West, whose remarks about the length of games between the Red Sox and Yankees made headlines earlier this season, was behind the plate Thursday, serving as the crew chief as the Sox hosted the Royals at Fenway Park.

Asked his thoughts on having West umpiring the game, Boston manager Terry Francona replied:

"I think you'd be better asking [White Sox manager] Ozzie [Guillen]," Francona said. "Our goal is to win today and, if possible, make it through nine innings. I'd rather not lose and I'd rather not get suspended. So again, check with Ozzie."

West umpired the White Sox-Indians game Wednesday in Cleveland, ejecting Guillen and pitcher Mark Buehrle after a pair of balk calls against the veteran left-hander.

Odds and ends

With Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Royals, the Red Sox snapped a season-best five-game winning streak that began Saturday against the Phillies in Philadelphia. They also fell to 9-8 in one-run games. ... Boston righty Daisuke Matsuzaka matched a career high with eight walks. He had also walked eight in May 5, 2008, in Detroit. It was the second time in his career that he has given up two or fewer hits while walking at least eight. He is the only active pitcher with at least two such games and joins Earl Wilson (July 31, 1959, at Detroit and Sept. 1, 1959, against Washington) as the only Sox pitchers since 1952 with two such outings. ... Kevin Youkilis has reached base safely in each of his past 26 games with a plate appearance since April 28. He has hit safely in 20 of those games and is batting .333 (28-for-84) with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in that span. ... J.D. Drew has recorded two or more hits in five of his past 10 games sine May 17 and is batting .362 with four home runs and 20 RBIs in 25 games since April 30. He has raised his average from .133 to .283 in that span. ... Ramon Ramirez threw two scoreless innings and has not allowed a run in each of his past 14 outings of at least two innings dating back to July 14, 2007. He's held opponents to a .077 (7-for-91) average in those appearances and a .127 (10-for-19) overall average this season.