ST. PETERSBURG -- One way or another, Red Sox ace Josh Beckett will pitch on Tuesday afternoon against Gulf Coast hitters in the state of Florida. The question is whether it will be at noon ET in an actual game in Sarasota, Fla., or at Tropicana Field at 2:30 p.m.
There is rain in the forecast for Tuesday, which might lead to the GCL game getting postponed. If that is the case, Beckett will face hitters from the Gulf Coast League in a simulated game environment at the Trop, which has a roof.
This will be Beckett's first game environment since May 18, the night he strained his lower back while pitching on a wet mound at Yankee Stadium.
Of late, Beckett has had a noticeable bounce in his step, unlike a few weeks ago, when he seemed visibly down about not being able to contribute.
"Yeah. That's good," said manager Terry Francona. "When he's had problems pitching, there's times where he's been sort of on the borderline. When he goes out there and knows that he's OK, I can see a difference in his delivery."
Beckett's next start is likely to be Sunday in a Minor League game. Triple-A Pawtucket is home that day against Syracuse, so that is a possible option.
Lowell won't be activated this week
ST. PETERSBURG -- Corner infielder/designated hitter Mike Lowell is eligible to come off the disabled list as soon as Friday, but that will not happen.
Lowell's right hip is still troublesome enough that he has not progressed to baseball activities. In fact, because his rehab program has been slow to develop, manager Terry Francona allowed Lowell to return to his Miami-area home and spend time with his family while the Red Sox are in St. Petersburg playing the Rays.
Lowell has a personal trainer near his home, so it is uncertain if he will accompany the Sox to Toronto this weekend or stay in South Florida through the All-Star break.
The veteran and former World Series Most Valuable Player was used sparingly this season even before getting injured, hitting .213 with two homers and 12 RBIs in 80 at-bats.
Shortstop Jed Lowrie, who has been beset for several months with mononucleosis, played his first game since Spring Training on Monday, going 1-for-2 with two walks for Class A Lowell. It was the start of a 20-day rehab assignment for Lowrie. ... The Red Sox did not use lefty Hideki Okajima on Monday because he has been dealing with a sore back. Manager Terry Francona said that Okajima will be available on Tuesday. ... Francona needs one more win for No. 900 in his managerial career.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.