Monday, March 2, 2009

Skeleton crew in Fort Lauderdale

Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie and Justin Masterson don't just highlight the big-name contingent the Red Sox have brought with them to Fort Lauderdale. They pretty much make up the big-name contingent the Red Sox have brought with them to Fort Lauderdale.

It's a long bus trip across Florida to the spring training home of the Orioles, which gives Terry Francona plenty of reason to leave the bulk of his regulars to do their work in Fort Myers. Most pitchers will throw today; Jason Varitek and Josh Bard will be there to catch them.

And with Jason Bay, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis off to their World Baseball Classic teams, the Red Sox don't have all that many big names to bring with them on these trips.

One reporter asked Francona if he was going to play more kids against Puerto Rico on Thursday; Francona shot back, "That's all we have!"

"These road trips are tough, trying to have a representative team," he said. "(Julio) Lugo had played two games in a row. (Rocco) Baldelli played yesterday. Varitek is catching tomorrow. ... I'm hoping that this is one where they'll send out the letter but that they'll understand. Our guys are fully aware. I've talked to (director of baseball operations Brian O'Halloran) and Theo (Epstein), and they completely understand where we're at."

Most of the rest of the regulars will return to action on Tuesday in Fort Myers against the Reds before taking Wednesday off.

And that day off, Francona said, isn't going to turn into a team outing to a local pool hall.

"If the American League East is going to be decided by playing 8-ball, we're going to be decidedly behind," he said. "That's just the way it is."

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