06/24/07 5:20 PM ET
Notes: Sox go with Gabbard not Lester
Boston management handles call-up situation very delicately
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
But in a measure of respect that the Red Sox have for Lester, they called the left-hander on Sunday morning to explain the decision.
Lester, regarded as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, was a regular member of the Boston rotation for 10 weeks last season before being diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma in August. After six chemotherapy treatments, Lester was declared cancer-free in December.
Respectful of what Lester has gone through, the Red Sox have brought him back methodically, starting him on a Minor League rehab assignment and then optioning him to Triple-A Pawtucket earlier this month.
Manager Terry Francona, general manager Theo Epstein, pitching coach John Farrell and Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson were all on the call with Lester.
"Just to kind of make sure he understood that we were sensitive to the fact of who he is and why we're doing this," Francona said. "I think we had a pretty good conversation. We just wanted to make sure everyone's on the same page."
The Red Sox are taking a long-term approach with Lester, and they didn't feel it was right to bring him back on what might be a temporary basis. Schilling is eligible to come off the disabled list on July 4.
"There's not a firm timetable on how many starts this [rotation slot] is going to get," Francona said. "And it's not to say, because we talk about Lester all the time, being a finished product and what he's going to do for us, which we completely agree. We like Gabby. I just think if it's going to be two, three starts, whatever it's going to be, keeping Lester on that program and letting him finish out getting back is really important. If he came up and had to go back, that's not in his best interest."
The other factor is that Gabbard has very much earned the promotion. The lefty is 7-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 14 starts for Triple-A Pawtucket. And when the Red Sox called up Gabbard for a start on May 20 against the Braves, he earned the win by giving up two earned runs over five innings.
"We just wanted to do the right thing for [Lester]," Francona said. "It's a really tough call. I think we're all comfortable that we did the right thing. On one hand, we're thrilled for Gabby; on the other hand, Lester, what he means to us, that's why I made the call to him."
Youk gets another day: Again short-handed by the lack of a designated hitter, Francona used the opportunity to get Kevin Youkilis two days off in a row.
Because of the intensity Youkilis plays with, his body can get worn down at times.
"I think head to toe, he's a little sore," Francona said. "I hope it helps a lot. He plays every inning, every pitch, every time he runs to first, like it's his last one, which we appreciate. But I think it wears on him. We need to take advantage of what we can take advantage of; that's probably the best way to put it. Somebody's got to sit. [Mike] Lowell sat in Atlanta to take advantage of that time, and I think he feels better. Sometimes a couple of days really help."
Trade winds are blowing: With the July 31 trade deadline approaching, the rumor mill has officially started churning. The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Sunday that the Red Sox have become the front-runner in the crowded derby of teams trying to acquire left-handed starter Mark Buehrle.
The newspaper also reported that Allard Baird, who is assistant to the general manager for the Red Sox, was on hand for Buehrle's most recent start.
The White Sox have reportedly targeted Red Sox prospects Clay Buchholz, Michael Bowden, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie.
The past couple of years, Epstein has been reluctant to trade top prospects. However, as deep as Boston's farm system has become, there's a chance the Red Sox might be more open to dealing a highly rated Minor Leaguer this year.
Epstein never comments on specific trade rumors. However, he did discuss the trade deadline in general terms on Friday.
"This is the time of year when we do try to look for things that might be able to help us, and try to keep our finger on the pulse of what's going on in the trade market," Epstein said. "We're not in a situation of desperation, but that doesn't mean we can't improve the club somehow. We'll very thoroughly investigate every opportunity and see if there's something we can do. It's a long season. Just because you perform well over the first 2 1/2 months, doesn't mean you won't need help down the stretch."
Bye, bye National League: If the Red Sox have things go as they hope, they'll play a National League foe again in October. But for now, Francona will be glad to go back to life as his team knows it.
"Thrilled," Francona said at Interleague Play concluding with Sunday's game. "It's not the way we're built; it's hard. You do what you've got to do."
David Ortiz, who started five games at first base this week, can put his big body back in the DH spot on Monday night.
"I think it's harder on David's body than anything else," Francona said. "He's not used to doing that; I know his lower back, his legs [get sore]. You can't simulate the game. I actually end up worrying about him."
Donnelly coming along: Reliever Brendan Donnelly (right forearm strain) won't come off the disabled list when he's eligible on Tuesday.
"He threw out to 120 [feet Saturday]," Francona said. "He'll do it again tomorrow. You know what's kind of hard for us, he is a max effort [on his delivery]. He can't throw a ball soft. When you put a guy on the DL, you want a guy to come back and be strong, and you don't want him to go backwards. I guess, if anything, we're going to like lasso him. He just doesn't throw a ball easy."
Timlin working his way back: Francona admitted that it's been hard to find a role for Mike Timlin since the veteran setup man was activated on June 9. As of late, Timlin has been pitching mostly in one-sided games. He has a 3.86 ERA in seven games since coming back.
"He didn't pitch in Spring Training, he's healthy, he's back, then he's not healthy and then you get guys into somewhat of their roles," Francona said. "Here's a guy that's handled a real heavy role for us from before I got here to when I got here, and trying to get him back into a role has not been the easiest thing. But we're trying to make sure we get him consistent work. And again, the way he pitches will figure out how he can best help our team. I guess that's the best way to assess it."
On deck: Julian Tavarez (5-4, 4.50 ERA) will face Jeff Weaver (1-6, 8.56) in Monday night's opener of a three-game series at Safeco Field. First pitch is scheduled for 10:05 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.