Notes: Manny battling sore knee
Breslow called up, fills hole left by Johnson's departure
BOSTON -- It was this time last year that Red Sox fans were fretting at the possibility of All-Star outfielder and 2004 World Series MVP Manny Ramirez being traded before the July 31 deadline. This season, Red Sox fans are encountering another scary scenario involving their enigmatic superstar due to the soreness in his right knee, which prevented him from attending the All-Star Game in Pittsburgh.
Despite the occasional swelling to the knee, Ramirez will start in the opening game of an eight-game homestand against Oakland on Thursday night. It is unknown whether Ramirez has a tear in the meniscus, because an MRI has not been taken on Boston's most discussed body part.
"His knee was an issue in the first half ... we were able to manage it by getting him out of games early. A big part of the treatment was getting him three days off at the All-Star break, and now that he's had that we hope to be able to keep an eye on him," general manager Theo Epstein said in Thursday's Boston Globe.
Ramirez has helped the Red Sox maintain their hold on first place, batting .306 with 24 home runs and 65 RBIs. His production, along with the man he protects in the lineup, David Ortiz, has helped establish one of the most feared hitting combinations a pitcher could face.
Ramirez has played in 82 of the 86 games this season, including a 19-inning affair against the White Sox in the last game before the All-Star break.
New assignments: Due to Jason Johnson's assignment to Class A Wilmington and the injuries that have affected the Boston pitching staff, the Red Sox have purchased the contract of left-hander Craig Breslow from Triple-A Pawtucket. He is the 23rd pitcher to make an appearance on the Red Sox active roster this season.
"I was very happy," Breslow said of the promotion. "I think the biggest thing for me was consistency and fortunately I've been pretty consistent all season. I was definitely surprised ... surprised, excited, all at the same time."
Breslow is 5-1 with a 3.40 ERA and five saves in 26 relief appearances with Pawtucket this season. He was Pawtucket's representative on the International League team for the 2006 Triple-A All-Star Game. Having made his Major League debut in 2005 with the San Diego Padres, Breslow has a 2.20 ERA in 16.1 innings at the big-league level.
"I don't know if he will be used. He won't be a lefty-lefty before [Javier] Lopez, and you don't use too often lefty-lefty in the third or fourth inning. We'll see. The games will dictate how he's used," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
To make room for Breslow, Lenny DiNardo was moved from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. However, DiNardo is expected to begin a rehab assignment at Pawtucket, where he will start against Charlotte on Friday. Francona expects him to throw 40-45 pitches. DiNardo is 1-2 with a 7.11 ERA this season.
Johnson, whose next start will be in Pawtucket, got the win for Class A Wilmington against Frederick on Wednesday, allowing four runs and 10 hits in seven innings. He is 0-2 with a 10.13 ERA with the Red Sox since being traded from the Indians on June 21.
Injuries updated: With the All-Star break providing extra rest for the overcrowded Boston DL, the Red Sox are eyeing the return of several key players.
Left-hander David Wells, who has not pitched since May 26 because of soreness in his right knee, may start throwing in less than a week. Wells is 0-1 with an 8.64 ERA in two starts this season.
"[He] threw a long way and did well," Francona said. "I think we're close enough where we can start thinking about a side day depending on how his knee reacts, maybe within the week. We'll see how he does."
Right-hander Matt Clement, who has not pitched since June 14 due to a right-shoulder strain, will go out and throw on Thursday. He is 5-5 with a 6.61 ERA this season.
"He backed off over the break and just did the strengthening. [He] didn't throw, so he'll do 60 feet today," Francona said.
Reliever Keith Foulke has not pitched since June 11 because of tendinitis in his right elbow, but he has been keeping his arm fresh. He is 2-1 with a 5.63 ERA this season.
"He's been throwing with good arm speed [and] good zip on the ball, but he still feels [discomfort] in his elbow," Francona said.
Curt Schilling will be ready to start on Saturday against Oakland despite being hit on the elbow with a line drive by Jim Thome in the last game played before the All-Star break. Tim Wakefield will be ready to go on Sunday, after an MRI on his back revealed no problems.
"I'm hoping that the time off would've done [Wakefield] a lot of good," Francona said.
The lone non-pitcher on the 15-day DL, Wily Mo Pena, seems to be making good progress in his return from the wrist surgery performed on June 1, and he should be making a return to Boston soon.
"He's still got some time left," Francona said. "He got hit the other night on the wrist that had the surgery, so he took a couple days off with the team for the break and he's going to play, probably through the weekend and then we're going to get him back up here. I know he's probably starting to get antsy down there, but 10, 12, 15 more at-bats will do him good. [It's] better than [him] sitting here. These are important at-bats for him."
Pena has played 36 games this season, starting at every outfield position and batting .321 with four home runs and 18 RBIs, but the Red Sox are uncertain how he will fit into the lineup upon his return.
"I don't know, I really don't know," Francona said. "I need to have a better answer and at some point I will, but he's not here so I really don't quite know."
Coming up: Josh Beckett, (11-4, 4,75) will look for a good start to the second half of the season at Fenway Park, as he faces the Oakland Athletics and southpaw Barry Zito (8-6, 3.29) in the second game of a four-game set on Friday night at 7:05 ET.
Howard Kussoy is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.