Notes: Gonzalez still learning the AL

Notes: Gonzalez still learning the AL

BOSTON -- The learning curve that comes with switching from the National League to the American League? Red Sox shortstop Alex Gonzalez knows all about that, both from a literal and figurative standpoint.

After being replaced by Alex Cora in Monday's lineup, Gonzalez was slated to be back in there for Tuesday's game against the Yankees. Instead, that game was rained out and Gonzalez will get his chance Wednesday against the Blue Jays to start the process of wiping the slate clean after a rough April.

In his first month with the Red Sox, Gonzalez hit just .186 with no homers and four RBIs. He is candid about the fact that the change in leagues has thrown his swing for a bit of a loop. Gonzalez is amazed by how often American League pitchers go to the curveball.

"It's different from the National League," Gonzalez said. "They throw a lot of breaking balls here, even on 3-1. On 3-0 or 3-2, you get a breaking ball. Or 2-0, they throw you a fastball, but out of the zone. That's what I try to do, just wait for my pitch. I don't see a lot of fastballs here, I have to make adjustments. I just have to be patient."

That's exactly what Red Sox manager Terry Francona is doing. Though the Red Sox have a seasoned backup with plenty of experience as an everyday player in Alex Cora, Francona didn't sound as if he was anywhere close to making a change, or even going with a set platoon.

The way things have gone so far, Gonzalez (21 starts) has been the primary guy with Cora (five starts) mixed in roughly once a week.

"I guess you try to strike a balance, always," said Francona. "Gonzo's defense is so important to what we're trying to do. At the same time, I acknowledge if a guy is hitting .170, it's a struggle. I want to play Alex [Cora] enough because I think he's a good player and I want to keep him sharp.

"At the same time, if we quit playing Gonzo before he's had his chance to get hot, we're going to miss out on something. OK, what is that something? I don't know. Does he get hot enough to get to .260, .270, .280? Does he get hot enough to maybe only get to .220? I don't have that answer. But I want to play him enough to see where that takes him because he is such a good defensive player."

In the past, Gonzalez has shown some power. He hit 18 homers in 2003, then clubbed 23 in '04. Last year, Gonzalez's power dipped to five homers.

"If we start getting offense from him, we have a good player," Francona said. "And, again, he's hitting ninth so he doesn't have to hit .300 and drive in 100. I want him to have a chance to show what he can do. So, bailing on him wouldn't be good."

Papelbon impresses Torre: Since 1997, Yankees manager Joe Torre has had the luxury of being able to call on arguably the best closer of all-time. While Jonathan Papelbon is nowhere close to reaching Mariano Rivera status, Torre has taken note of Boston's rookie right-hander, who is 10-for-10 in save opportunities and has yet to allow a run this season.

"The kid isn't afraid to come at you," said Torre. "He's got some artillery with him, too -- fastball and split. He throws strikes. Aside from his natural ability, the best thing he has going for him is the fact that he puts you on your heels a little by throwing a lot of strikes."

Papelbon was named the American League's Rookie of the Month for April on Tuesday.

You might wonder why Papelbon is classified as a rookie, considering the impact he had on Boston's bullpen late last season. The reason is that a pitcher has to log 50 innings his first year to nullify rookie status the next season. Papelbon pitched just 34 innings last year.

Wells makes more progress: Sox left-hander David Wells, perhaps turning a slight corner in his rehab from right knee woes, had another good day on Tuesday. The past two days are the only good ones Wells has had since going on the DL on April 15, and perhaps a sign that the latest round of Synvisc -- a joint lubricant -- shots did his knee some good.

"I'm getting a lot better [with the plant leg]," Wells said. "It's been two days in a row and I've thrown all my pitches off flat ground and I wasn't able to do that after the Toronto series [at Fenway]. To do that and feel nothing, that's pretty positive for me."

What is the next step?

"Get on the hill [in a side session] and if it responds good there, you do it again," Wells said. "And then, go to a start. Throw me out to the wolves. I've done that before, I don't mind it. Why waste a start?"

Views on Damon: Wells, after being informed by reporters that his former manager Joe Torre was critical of the Boston fans for their treatment of Johnny Damon on Monday night, had a predictably opinionated take.

"Awww, poor Joe. Sorry," said Wells. "I don't feel bad for him. For Joe? No. For Johnny, he knows what it's like. When you put the "B" on and you're in NY, they're going to hate you. It happened to me [in New York]. I went in as a Padre and got a standing ovation. I come in as a Red Sox and I'm the [villain]. That's fine. Joe's been around for a long time. If he's going to have remarks like that, I guess he's getting a little too sensitive."

Francona's take on all the boos for his former leadoff man?

"It kind of is what it is," said Francona. "One of our all-time favorite guys goes to the team that you're trying to beat and there's all this history. The fans in New York, the fans here, they're like the two most passionate cities in the world about their sports teams. So they did a lot of hollering. Some were probably cheering. Some where probably booing.

"We all love Johnny. We don't want him to get hits against us. The fans were just showing their emotions. It's not the end of the world. It's just some very passionate fans having some fun at somebody else's expense."

Coming up: Josh Beckett will face Roy Halladay in an intriguing battle of righties on Wednesday night at Fenway. Beckett was supposed to pitch Tuesday's game against the Yankees before the rain prevented him from doing so. First pitch is at 7:05 p.m. ET.

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