Notes: Wakefield to get extra rest

Notes: Wakefield to get extra rest

CHICAGO -- Tim Wakefield's balky back has been bothering him enough that Red Sox manager Terry Francona has shifted his pitching rotation coming out of the All-Star break.

Originally, Wakefield was supposed to open the second half for the Sox and pitch next Thursday at Fenway against Oakland. But Francona will instead have rookie Jon Lester pitch that game and move Wakefield back to the Sunday finale of that four-game series.

That will give Wakefield nine days of rest between starts.

Asked to characterize the state of his back on Friday afternoon, the day after he earned a win over the Devil Rays, Wakefield said, "Sore, not good."

After Thursday's game, Wakefield said the discomfort in his back had shifted from where it was earlier in the year (the lower portion) and was now in between his sciatica and spine.

"He started out with a knot in his back," Francona said. "He's trying to pitch through it and every time he pitches, it seems to kind of move around. We've all had it, it hurts. If he didn't have to pitch, it wouldn't be a big deal."

Lester was originally supposed to start that fourth game after the break.

"The quotes I gave you [earlier in the week] about Lester needing the rest and everything, just change it to, he's young and strong," quipped Francona.

All kidding aside, Francona will make sure not to over-do it with Lester, who has never pitched more than 148 innings in a season at the professional level.

"I talked to [general manager] Theo [Epstein] about it last night, and didn't see anything better to do," Francona said. "We'll keep an eye on him. If he needs to come out an inning early, I'll keep an eye on the situation. Wake was hurting enough where we felt like he needed an extra couple of days."

Historic half for Papi: David Ortiz isn't just having the best first half of his career. He's having perhaps the best of any slugger in Red Sox history.

Ortiz blasted home run No. 30 on Friday night, becoming the first player in Sox history to belt that many before the All-Star break. Captain Carl Yastrzemski (29 in 1969) held the previous record. Ortiz is the 29th player in Major League history to hit 30 homers in the first half, and the first since Barry Bonds did it for the Giants in 2003.

With 84 RBIs (after that homer in the first), Ortiz is tied with Manny Ramirez (2001) for the highest total of a Boston hitter before the All-Star break since 1960.

Coco's funk: When this road trip started one week ago in Miami, Coco Crisp was a focal point after making one of the best catches in baseball this season in the finale of the homestand. The attention has shifted to Crisp again, but the subject is far less positive.

The center fielder was in a serious funk. He was in an 0-for-23 slump before finally snapping out of it Friday night with a bloop single and a homer.

"Just trying to get him a plan and a routine," said hitting coach Ron Jackson. "I don't think, in the past, he has ever had too many people to work with him. What I'm trying to do is gradually work him into that. He had such a great [Spring Training] and we never had to say anything to him."

Crisp hit .434 in Spring Training but suffered a non-displaced fracture at the base of his left index finger in the fifth game of the regular season.

"I think that the finger really set him back," said Jackson. "I don't know how strong it is, we don't know. To me, he's pulling off because his hand is not as strong as it should be. You hit with your hands. If your hands are not strong, the rest of the stuff doesn't work for you."

Rest for regulars? Even with the All-Star break looming, Francona will monitor his regulars to make sure everyone gets enough rest this weekend at the end of a 10-day, 10-game road trip. The Red Sox have a quick turnaround on Saturday, following a night game with a 1:25 p.m. ET start time.

"We'll see, I talked to Jason [Varitek] last night and kind of told him, it's such a quick turnaround, you get stuck in between, it's easy because we've got three days coming up, but we're trying to win the game and trying not to injure people and you're trying to get production, so I'll check with Jason after the game," Francona said. "He typically gives you the same answer every single day -- 'I'm fine.' I'll get a read on his body language, how many icebags he has on, and we'll go from there."

Coming up: Josh Beckett (10-4, 4.59 ERA) will draw Saturday's nationally televised start. He'll be opposed by White Sox right-hander Freddy Garcia (10-5, 4.72 ERA).

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