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07/19/07 8:38 PM ET

Notes: Pena trying to shake rust off

With Drew's hamstring sore, reserve outfielder in lineup

BOSTON -- Back in the starting lineup for the first time since July 8, Wily Mo Pena spent the pregame hours trying to shake the rust off his swing.

"I just do whatever I have to do," said Pena. "I'm just trying to get my timing back."

With J.D. Drew's right hamstring continuing to be a bother, Pena got a phone call on Thursday morning with the news he'd be playing.

At the age of 25, Pena finds himself at a bit of a career crossroads. Is he better off getting more at-bats for another team, or staying in Boston where he is mainly an insurance policy?

The matter might come to a head soon, as the July 31 trade deadline is approaching.

"I don't know what's going to happen," Pena said. "If something happens, I'll be ready for anything. If I got traded and played, that would be good. If they don't trade me, I'll be happy here. Whenever they need me, I'll just have to be ready."

Pena entered Thursday with just 124 at-bats. Last year, Pena had 276 at-bats for the season even though he had surgery on his left wrist on June 1.

"Last year I was playing a lot more and my timing was there," Pena said. "Right now, it's a little different. I go so many days without playing and they put me in there, and I'm trying to get my timing back -- and my timing is not the same. I'm just trying to get in there and get everything together. Last year was a good year, because I was playing a lot."

And last year, Pena hit .301 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs. He came into Thursday hitting .210 with four homers and 12 RBIs.

"It's hard to show anyone that you're an everyday player in the Major Leagues when you aren't playing," Pena said. "How are you going to show anybody that until you play every day?"

Pena was not complaining, but simply pointing out the situation he's in.

"I just try to learn as much as I can every day," said Pena.

Holding pattern for Drew: Drew continues to be in on-again, off-again mode as he battles right hamstring woes. The left-handed hitter exited Friday's game with recurring tightness and then returned to the lineup on Monday night. But manager Terry Francona opted not to play him Thursday.

"He's kind of stuck in between," Francona said. "He wants to play, we want him to play. He slipped on the fly ball last night. I don't think that helped. Then he hit a ball off his ankle, which I don't think helped any more. We're trying to do what's right and it's not very easy."

It was particularly tough to keep Drew out of the lineup on Thursday, considering his history (.391 average, three hours, four RBIs) lifetime against White Sox starter Javier Vazquez.

At least at this point, Francona said the Red Sox are not considering the disabled list for Drew.

"If we had to, but I don't think he feels like that's necessary and that's probably ahead of where we are," said Francona. "This isn't a tear. I don't think this is something we want to linger. We want him to be OK and I thought we got there. Evidently we didn't."

Lugo stays at nine, Coco leads off: With Drew out of the lineup, did Francona think about putting the rejuvenated Julio Lugo back in the leadoff spot?

"Yeah, a little bit," Francona said. "[I] kind of hate to have Lugo bouncing around. If there is ever a time when [Lugo] goes back to leadoff, I'd rather have him stay there. I wasn't ready to do that today or tomorrow. Again, Coco has been used to doing this so there's some continuity and some consistency there."

Manny goes back: During a homestand in which left fielder Manny Ramirez had several balls hit over his head, the Red Sox began repositioning him a little deeper on Wednesday night.

Ramirez had been playing noticeably shallow over the last few weeks.

"I think Manny got in a situation where he started getting a little shallower, not on purpose," Francona said. "Like a hitter stands up and then after a week, you do it more and more and more. And he had been getting in further and further and further and in about a week's span, he got burned a couple of times.

"He's always very aware of not allowing teams to score on base hits to left field, which is good. There's a lot of different ways to approach our left field. You always try to take away something. But at different times of the game, you have to be aware of what can hurt you worse or what you want to take away."

On deck: The Red Sox send ace Josh Beckett (12-3, 3.35 ERA) to the mound for Friday night's 7:05 ET contest. The White Sox counter with Jose Contreras, who is 5-11 with a 5.32 ERA.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.