Notes: Tavarez content in any role
Lester's impending return may push veteran to Sox bullpen
NEW YORK -- There is no secret that the Red Sox will soon have a decision to make regarding left-hander Jon Lester, who is progressing well in his Minor League rehab. And it's no mystery that Julian Tavarez is all but certain to be the odd man out in the rotation once that takes place.
"It wouldn't surprise me," said Tavarez. "I know [a decision] is going to come around soon."
Tavarez, who went five-plus innings on Sunday against the Yankees en route to his first win of the season, is both a realist and a team player.
"I'm just here to help the team do whatever," said Tavarez. "I'm just going to be happy when Jon Lester is healthy and ready to help our team and ready to help lead us to the World Series."
Tavarez's next start will likely be on Saturday in Minnesota. Lester will pitch on Wednesday at Triple-A Pawtucket. Though his Minor League rehab expires after that, there's at least a chance the Red Sox could option him to Triple-A so he can fine-tune things a little more.
The earliest Lester would seemingly join the Red Sox would be for the series in Toronto on May 8-10. But any speculation is premature at this point, as the Red Sox have made very gradual evaluations of Lester all along the way.
The good news is that the lefty was again given a clean bill of health in a medical checkup a few days ago.
As for Tavarez, he is 1-2 with a 7.58 ERA in four starts. He hasn't been able to put together a full-fledged solid outing just yet. Sunday was close, but a Doug Mientkiewicz three-run homer put a bit of a dent in his day.
"I thought he looked real good," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "It was frustrating, because we gave up the three on one swing in a situation they were trying to lay the bunt down and give us an out. He crossed Jason [Varitek] up on one pitch, and the runners moved up. That was the frustrating part, because I actually thought he was throwing the ball real well."
Matchup favored Hinske: There are some matchups you just can't pass up. Francona found one for Sunday, and that's why Eric Hinske started the finale of this three-game series against the Yankees, batting fifth and playing right field.
Hinske, who entered the day 10-for-16 lifetime with two homers against Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang, wound up going 0-for-4.
"I wanted to find a place for Hinske to play today," said Francona. "It doesn't ensure that a guy is going to get hits, but there's a good track record there. This guy's a good pitcher, and right field, if you're going to play him in the outfield, this is probably a good place to do it. It just makes sense. We'll have J.D. [Drew] available to pinch-hit, and hopefully, it will work all the way around."
It was the fourth start of the season for Hinske and his first in the outfield.
In case you're wondering if Francona considered giving the slumping Manny Ramirez (two hits in his last 23 at-bats) his first respite of the season rather than sitting Drew, take another look at the matchups. The left fielder came in with a .692 average (9-for-13) against Wang, including two homers and five RBIs.
Ramirez went 2-for-4 with a homer. The long ball came off reliever Sean Henn in the eighth.
Two for Drew: Aside from the benefit of the matchup Hinske has against Wang, Francona had another reason for giving Drew a blow. With Monday's off-day, it gave the right fielder a rare chance to take two days off in a row.
"I talked to J.D. the other day about two in a row," said Francona. "I said, 'Does it do you good? Does it not help you?' He said, 'That was what they did last year in L.A. to really get my legs under me.' [The] last couple of days have been rough for him swinging the bat anyway."
Because the Red Sox have been winning, Drew's slump has been almost unnoticeable. Drew has one hit in his last 21 at-bats, as his average has plummeted to .278.
"He's so even-keeled that I don't think he's pressing," said Francona. "He handles things pretty much the same regardless of what he does at the plate. He came out and hit in Baltimore extra. He's gone through about a week's stretch where I don't think he's felt real comfortable at the plate. It happens to everybody."
Drew played the final couple of innings on Sunday in the field and did not step to the plate.
Cora starts at second: Cora was another addition to Sunday's lineup, starting at second base in place of Dustin Pedroia. It was Cora's sixth start overall, and his fifth at second. The Sox are now 6-0 when the heady utility man starts.
Cora produced a homer and a triple while driving in three runs.
"That's why he's here," said Francona. "I actually enjoy talking about him, and it seems like I get asked about him a lot because he's a good player. Today, it's going to show up because the ball leaves the ballpark. He gets three RBIs. But he's always in the right place. He knows how to play."
Lowell confident in glove: There are few players in baseball as tough-minded as Sox third baseman Mike Lowell. Therefore, you can be pretty sure Lowell isn't going to let his defensive slump alter his approach.
"I don't think about errors; I'm thinking about making the play," said Lowell, who has eight errors after making six all of last season. "I wouldn't say that my approach or anything is different. I'm human. I don't want to make errors. I feel like I've been a good defensive third baseman for a while. I feel like I can make plays.
As far as Lowell is concerned, he's run into a fluky bit of misfortune.
"I don't feel like I'm having problems fielding the ball," said Lowell. "I just feel like I'm getting [in between hops]. I have to throw the frog out that's living in my glove. It's frustrating."
On deck: Following Monday's day off, Curt Schilling (3-1, 3.27 ERA) will take the ball for the Sox on Tuesday for the opener of a two-game series at Fenway Park against the A's, who will counter with Joe Blanton (2-1, 3.55 ERA) at 7:05 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.