Francona pleased with club's first half
Sox perservered despite injuries to several key players
TORONTO -- With Sunday's contest against the Blue Jays being the last before the three-day All-Star break, Red Sox manager Terry Francona was peppered with questions about his squad's first-half performance.
His response: "Up and down."
After starting the season a pedestrian 11-12 in April, the Red Sox persevered through injuries to deliver a combined 36-20 record in May and June. Despite stumbling into Sunday's first-half finale 3-5 through July, the club has is 50-37, which all things considered, has been quite a feat.
Boston enters the break with 14 players on the 15-day disabled list, including All-Stars Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, and Clay Buchholz -- not to mention starting pitcher Josh Beckett and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who has only appeared in nine games this season.
"I love this team," Francona said. "They're easy to like. The first month of the season was really difficult for a lot of reasons, but we got through it. I know it's not perfect, I recognize that, but the level of intensity and trying to do the right thing has been off the charts. It's been a challenge, but one that I think we've all kind of enjoyed.
"Our job is to win with what we have -- and that's today."
Red Sox tab Wake to open second half
TORONTO -- Before Sunday's first-half finale against the Blue Jays, Red Sox manager Terry Francona revealed his rotation following the All-Star break.
Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield will take the reigns for the Sox on Thursday against the Rangers, followed by Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
Boston's rotation, which has changed several times throughout the first half due to injuries, was designed this way, according to Francona, to effectively maximize each starter's rest going into the break.
If all goes according to plan, Wakefield will receive eight days rest, Buchholz 20, Lackey seven, Matsuzaka eight, and depending on whether or not Lester is used in the All-Star Game, he will pitch on five or nine days' rest -- though it is unlikely he will throw more than two innings in the Midsummer Classic.
Buchholz, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 27 with a left hamstring strain, had an encouraging side session on Wednesday before traveling to Toronto for the club's weekend series with the Blue Jays. The young right-hander is nearly back to full health, and is scheduled to throw July 21 during the team's optional workout. Felix Doubront, recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to temporarily replace Buchholz, has an uncertain future with the club.
"We're hopeful," Francona said about the likelihood of Buchholz making Friday's start against Texas. "We're keeping Doubront for all the reasons we talked about the other day [just-in-case philosophy]. I think Buchholz is fine [and] if he's not, we won't pitch him. I think we've been quite open about that, but he's doing pretty well."
As for two-time All-Star Josh Beckett, who has been on the 15-day DL since May 19 with a lower back strain, made a rehab start Sunday at Triple-A Pawtucket, with no immediate timetable for his return.
Beltre exits, expects to play in All-Star Game
TORONTO -- With 14 players already on the 15-day disabled list, and many others playing hurt, the last thing the Red Sox could afford was another injury -- especially to a cornerstone infielder.
While the full extent of the damage is not yet known, All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltre left Sunday's contest against the Blue Jays with a left hamstring injury.
Beltre was seen clutching his hamstring running down the first-base line after grounding out to shortstop Alex Gonzalez in the fifth inning of Boston's 3-2 win over Toronto.
Beltre, who remained in the field defensively for the fifth, notified the training staff before being escorted to the clubhouse for observation. In the sixth, Bill Hall shifted from second to third, while Eric Patterson assumed Beltre's No.5 spot in the lineup and played second.
"I wasn't going to come out if the score was 0-0," Beltre said. "It feels fine."
With the All-Star Game two days away, many were wondering if the injury would jeopardize his chances of playing.
"I should be able to play, but can't say anything for sure yet," Beltre said.
Beltre was 0-for-2 before exiting. The 31-year-old has missed three games this season, after missing 111 games with the Mariners in 2009.
Beckett sharp in first Triple-A rehab start
TORONTO -- Red Sox starter Josh Beckett, on the 15-day disabled list since May 19 with a lower back strain, made his first rehab start with Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday.
The hard-throwing right-hander went four innings, allowing one run on two hits -- including a home run in the fourth. Beckett, who threw 42 of his 68 pitches for strikes, recorded four strikeouts and didn't allow a walk, en route to a productive rehab outing.
Manager Terry Francona, who contacted Pawtucket during the third inning of Beckett's outing, said, "it all sounded like everything was fine."
The date of Beckett's next rehab outing has yet to be determined.
Sox continue to struggle in day games
TORONTO -- Losses have become a reoccurring trend for the Red Sox in day games this season, as they fell to 8-14 after losing to the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon at Rogers Centre.
While manager Terry Francona has addressed the issue on several occasions, he insists sometimes there is no rhyme or reason.
"In the past, we've actually been really good," Francona said. "I don't know, I hope it improves. I think every year there is something that sticks out that is maybe a quirk. I don't see the effort being any different or anything, I've just noticed it an hope it gets better."
Cameron sits day after hit-by-pitch
TORONTO -- Red Sox outfielder Mike Cameron was just beginning to turn it around offensively. He had collected six hits and five RBIs heading into Saturday's contest, and said he was finally starting to feel healthy.
Unfortunately, as the way this season has gone for Cameron, the 37-year old veteran was drilled on the right wrist with a 90-mph Brandon Morrow fastball in the third inning of Saturday's game -- prompting manager Terry Francona to leave him out of Sunday's lineup.
"He's fine, just sore," Francona said. "Getting hit with a 90-mph fastball -- it hurts. We checked on him this morning and he's got a pretty good bruise there."
According to Francona, Cameron should have no problem returning to the lineup after the All-Star break.
James Hall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.