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03/10/08 2:49 PM ET

Lugo's back develops into concern

With Opening Day nearing, Sox will not rush his recovery

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Julio Lugo's lingering lower back tightness, once a minor detail, has since developed into a legitimate concern. Lugo met with team medical director Dr. Thomas Gill on Monday, and while the prognosis was positive, the outlook remains unclear.

Boston's shortstop isn't expected back in the lineup when the Red Sox return home on Tuesday and remains "a few days away" from even considering playing in a game.

"I guess maybe I thought that this was a strain that would keep us out a couple days," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "The examination was good, he's just not ready to play tomorrow in a game."

Some concern stems from the fact that Lugo had already attempted to practice once when he wasn't fully ready. He, too, believed that his lower back tightness, originally aggravated during the opening weekend of Grapefruit League games, should have kept him shelved for only two to three days. He's now missed eight straight games and counting.

"I think when Lugo tried to play that one day, I think he overdid it a little bit and set himself back," Francona said. "So we need to sit on it a little bit."

Francona won't, in other words, rush his shortstop back into action just because this month's trip to Japan will force the Sox to begin playing meaningful games a week earlier than normal. Despite a growing list of injuries -- starter Josh Beckett has been battling lower back spasms since the weekend, and center fielder Coco Crisp has played in only two spring games with tightness in his groin -- Francona will resist any temptation to overextend his players.

"It's really not an issue, and we can't allow that to become an issue because we're jumping on a plane in 10 days," said Francona. "We can't make poor decisions because of that."

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