MINNEAPOLIS -- If the Red Sox win Wednesday night's series finale against the Twins, they might have to do so without their dominant 1-2 punch of closer Jonathan Papelbon and setup man Daniel Bard.
Definitively, Papelbon is unavailable after working in the last three games. Bard pitched in three of the previous four days. Matt Albers, another key setup man this season, has also pitched three times in the last four days.
"When we go out, we'll give it a check," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We want to see how these guys are doing. If they're not perfect, we might just suck it up and not pitch them and do the best we can."
Tito gives Pedroia breather, hears about it
MINNEAPOLIS -- Even faced with the prospect of listening to Dustin Pedroia talk trash in the dugout for nine innings, Red Sox manager Terry Francona decided giving his second baseman a breather Wednesday was the right thing to do.
"Oh, I've been listening to him since noon, so I might as well," said Francona.
Pedroia had started 53 games in a row, his last break coming on June 9 at Yankee Stadium, only because he flew back to Boston that day to have precautionary tests on his right knee. He did pinch-hit Wednesday, batting for Josh Reddick and grounding out to end the top of the eighth inning. Pedroia remained in the game, with Mike Aviles moving from second base to right field.
Given peace of mind once those tests proved to show no significant damage, Pedroia has been red-hot at the plate, hitting .376 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs during that stretch.
"He needed [a break], though," said Francona. "I kept telling him the last couple of days I was going to check with him after the game and he was fighting me on it the last two days. A couple of days ago, he goes, 'Yeah, it would be a good idea.' Then the last couple of days, he was fighting me. So I said, 'OK, I'll just check with you.' He was like screaming at me."
But the scream dulled after Tuesday night's game.
"Then [Tuesday] night after the game, he was like, 'I'm tired.' This will be good for him," Francona said. "It's just hard to go back once you go too far with a guy like Pedey or [Kevin Youkilis]. This will really be good. Sometimes, it's just good."
With the prospect of a night of relaxation, Pedroia was even more chirpy than usual before Wednesday's game, harassing virtually any teammate who walked in his path.
"He just needed a little blow," Francona said. "He doesn't have the game hanging over his head. He can relax a little bit."
Drew advances to indoor cage work
MINNEAPOLIS -- Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew, sidelined with a left shoulder impingement, advanced to indoor batting practice in the cage on Wednesday.
"Thirty-five swings live," said manager Terry Francona. "He'll take [Thursday] as a day off with everybody else, and then he'll hit on the field Friday."
How many days will Drew need to hit on the field before progressing either to a rehab assignment or getting activated?
"I don't know. He'll do Friday-Saturday, and I wouldn't think we'll hit Sunday on the field, so in the cage [then]. Then we'll re-evaluate," Francona said.
Drew is having a rough season, hitting .219 with four homers and 21 RBIs in 233 at-bats. Shortly before going on the disabled list, Josh Reddick supplanted him as Boston's primary right fielder.
That being said, it's hard for Francona to gauge what kind of impact Drew will make when he does come back.
"How do you know? I hope it's great," Francona said. "You ask me that. I don't know. When we lost Carl [Crawford], as much as we like Carl, when a guy fills [like Reddick] in and hits .420, you just don't know. You'd like to have everybody back healthy so you don't have to answer that."
Club much improved on road this season
MINNEAPOLIS -- In Terry Francona's eight seasons as manager of the Red Sox, the only other season his club has performed nearly as well on the road was the World Series championship campaign of 2007.
In recent years, Boston has been a dominant team at Fenway and usually right around .500 on the road. The Sox entered Wednesday's contest at Minnesota with a 35-21 mark on the road, the best in the Majors.
That is particularly impressive when you consider Boston lost its first seven road games this season.
"I know in the past, there were places that were really tough for us," Francona said. "We didn't have a lot of team speed, and, I think, we'd go into the Metrodome or we'd go into Toronto, places like Tampa Bay, with big fields, and we'd get exposed a little bit.
"We're balanced [now]. On the road, if you don't have a deep bullpen, you're going to lose some games because you don't want to go to [Jonathan Papelbon] when you're down a run or sometimes tied. Guys like [Alfredo] Aceves and [Matt] Albers have helped us a ton there. We're more athletic, we're faster."
Here is a breakdown of Boston's road records during the Francona era: 2004, 43-38; '05, 41-40; '06, 38-43; '07, 45-36; '08, 39-42; '09, 39-42; '10, 43-38.