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07/24/07 7:25 PM ET

Notes: Crisp slotted fifth

Oritz's absence plus hot bat moves center fielder

CLEVELAND -- The confluence of two events -- David Ortiz again not playing and C.C. Sabathia pitching for the Indians -- led manager Terry Francona to put Coco Crisp in the No. 5 hole on Tuesday night and slide left-handed-hitting J.D. Drew to eighth.

Crisp has been red-hot with the bat, hitting .402 (47-for-117) over a 30-game span.

"Coco hits wherever you ask him to hit," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I'm not sure it matters right now. The way he's swinging the bat, he can hit one through nine and it doesn't matter."

This marked just the second time in Crisp's career he started a game in the No. 5 slot. Crisp was 0-for-4 with the Indians in 2005 during his lone stint in the five-hole.

"Just go in there and hit," said Crisp. "Who cares where you hit in the lineup? If there's people on base, hit them in. If nobody's on base, get on base."

Crisp was hoping to get the best of Sabathia, his close friend from their days together in Cleveland. On Aug. 1, 2006, Crisp went 2-for-3 against Sabathia, but the Indians beat the Red Sox, 6-3.

"We're supposed to hang out after the game, so hopefully I'll get a couple of hits so I can talk [trash] to him," said Crisp. "Hopefully, he doesn't get the best of me today so I can talk [trash]."

One thing you won't get Crisp to boast about is the way he's been scorching the ball of late.

"You know me, I'd rather not talk about anything," said Crisp, who has declined to speak to the media on numerous occasions this season.

Crisp's bat, on the other hand, is making all kinds of noise. After going 10-for-13 in the previous three games, he brought a season-high batting average of .284 into Tuesday's game. Consider that Crisp was hitting just .221 on June 13. What happened?

"Instead of being way up in the box, he moved back in the box," said Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. "From the left side, we tried to get him to stand up taller, and from there he has more of a load and more of a leg kick left-handed, which has given him more rhythm. He started doing it in the cage, and then he started doing in BP a couple of days, and he felt comfortable to take it into the game. He's taken off from there.

"He's getting hits and he's getting results, and it all snowballs," continued Magadan. "So much of hitting is confidence, and it's just kind of taken off for him."

Ortiz eyes Wednesday: For the first time since straining his left shoulder on July 20, Ortiz took batting practice outdoors. He is hoping to give it a go and be back in the lineup Wednesday night.

"There's still a little pinch, but it's not bad. That's what happens when you're getting older. Everything hurts," quipped Ortiz.

"David's doing real well," Francona said. "I would be surprised if he doesn't play tomorrow."

Manny rests legs: In all four games Ortiz has been out of the lineup, Francona has used Manny Ramirez as the DH. Is something wrong with Ramirez? No. Actually, that's why Francona has utilized him at DH -- to make sure he stays healthy.

"[I] try to take advantage of the time when we can do it," Francona said. "I think he appreciates it. I just think it makes sense. He's played a lot. He's going to play a lot. Might as well take advantage of getting any kind of help. Let him DH when he can. I think it will help us down the road."

Wily Mo Pena spotted Ramirez in left and batted ninth. Pena entered the night with just two hits in his last 22 at-bats.

Timlin's back: Veteran setup man Mike Timlin is back to pitching at the high level the Red Sox came to expect from 2003-05, before injuries started creeping in last year.

Timlin has been unscored on in his last 16 innings of work, a span of 11 outings.

"When he's going good, I can't tell what he's throwing," said Francona. "From the dugout, you can't tell. That's what I told him last night. I said, 'You're back to where I can't tell.' And I meant that in a good way. When he's throwing good, I just don't know what he's throwing. You can't differentiate."

Letter from Lance: Jon Lester, who made a strong comeback start in beating the Indians Monday night, received support from none other than seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong during his battle back from anaplastic large cell lymphoma.

Armstrong, according to The Associated Press, wrote a hand-written letter to Lester.

"I was kind of surprised," Lester said. "I've got it hanging up in the house, it was real nice. He sent me his book and a picture, too. It meant a lot. I was really excited about it."

Armstrong is a survivor of testicular cancer.

On deck: The Red Sox send ace Josh Beckett (13-3, 3.41 ERA) to the mound on Wednesday night againstIndians righty Fausto Carmona (12-4, 3.52). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET at Jacobs Field.

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