09/19/07 8:45 PM ET
Notes: Okajima temporarily shut down
Reliever hasn't seen action since struggling against Yankees
By Ian Browne / MLB.com
Because nobody had asked in recent days, Red Sox manager Terry Francona didn't volunteer the information. But Francona confirmed before Wednesday night's game that the lefty setup man has been temporarily shut down by the club in an effort to get him strong for what the team hopes is a long run into October.
"You probably won't see him for a few more days," Francona said. "It's not an easy thing to do, but I think it's the right thing to do."
Francona didn't pinpoint a specific injury with Okajima, instead making reference to the training staff picking up some data that made the break a wise move.
"We monitor everything on these guys," said Francona. "We have baselines from the beginning of Spring Training to now and there's things that we just want to keep going in the right direction. Sometimes the best way to do that is to have a guy not pitch."
Okajima is not now easing back into his throwing program.
"He went a couple of days with no throwing," said Francona. "Just let the medical people do their stuff, then get him back on the arm strengthening program which we think will refresh him for hopefully what we want to be a long run, so we can lean on him a little bit."
In a session with Japanese reporters, Okajima was vague about his physical state.
"My overall condition wasn't perfect," Okajima said through translator Sachiyo Sekiguchi. "I'm trying to bring my condition level up to that perfect level. The team came to me and said, 'Let's make sure to bring it to 100 percent level and take this time to get in good condition.'"
Okajima added that what he's going through is normal.
"Similar things happened to me in Japan, too," Okajima said. "Nothing overly shocking. I want to be game ready when I go out and pitch instead of in so-so condition. I believe that I'll be pitching sometime between now and before the playoffs start."
Gagne a day later: A day after giving away the lead in the eighth inning of Tuesday night's loss, righty setup man Eric Gagne was trying to get himself back up to par from a mental standpoint.
"It had nothing to do with the situation, it had to do with me not thinking positive," said Gagne. "It's a [game] situation I've been through 1,000 times -- that's not the problem. The problem is that I have to stop fighting myself and start visualizing positive things. I'm going to come out of it; I just have to stop battling myself."
Francona, who had shied away from using Gagne with the lead as the righty battled back from mechanical and physical issues, felt Tuesday was the time to get him back on the horse.
"The timing, for me, was about perfect," said Francona. "The outcome wasn't. I think he's a tough kid. I don't think you accomplish what he has in his career just by luck or getting on a good role. I think he's tough enough to handle what is being thrown at him or we wouldn't do it."
With 10 games left in the regular season, Francona felt there was plenty of time to get Gagne where the team needs him before postseason.
"Time isn't running out," said Francona. "We have, I think a lot more baseball to play. That's probably five appearances if we want. Ten games is a long time."
Coco out again: By design, Francona rested center fielder Coco Crisp (sore back) for the second game in a row. With an off-day on Thursday, the hope is that Crisp can return to the lineup on Friday night against the Rays.
"I told Coco yesterday before the game, 'You're not playing tonight, you're not playing tomorrow.' I said, 'Don't show up in the eighth inning and tell me you want to pinch run,'" said Francona. "That's what he does, because he's a good kid, but I think it sets him back."
"He wants to help. The way he can help now is just to get his treatment. With a day off tomorrow,[it will] maybe calm this down."
Manny still in holding pattern: Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez missed his 21st game in a row with a strained left oblique. There is still no clear timetable for his return.
However, Francona vowed that this isn't one of those "Manny being Manny" incidents.
"I understand over the course of years, there have been some hiccups and those types of things," said Francona. "I understand, I've been around for some of them. This isn't one of them. We miss his bat. He's a Hall of Fame bat that's not out there."
Ramirez continues to take batting practice but is having trouble running.
"The running part is grabbing at him a little bit," Francona said. "I think we all felt like because we saw him starting to hit, we all got our hopes up, including himself. And then when he ran, it started grabbing at him a little bit, so we're stuck there. Like I said, I think we all got our hopes up including him. He's just not ready."
Youk getting closer: While Ramirez is sort of stuck, first baseman Kevin Youkilis continues to make progress with his right wrist contusion.
"Youk went and did some dry swings today, did some throwing, which is a good progression," Francona said. "He's still really sore. I think there's a difference between doing that and playing in a game, but it is a good step -- that's probably what it is."
Coming up: The Red Sox send ace Josh Beckett to the mound Friday night for the start of a three-game series at Tropicana Field. The Devil Rays counter with their ace, left-hander Scott Kazmir. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 ET.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.