Lowell's role will vary to keep him fresh
Oakland (43-57) at Boston (58-42), 1:35 p.m. ET
BOSTON -- Mike Lowell will not be an everyday player for the remainder of this season, but that doesn't mean he can't contribute down the stretch.
When it comes to the third baseman, who will start at his regular position in Thursday's series finale against the A's, one day after serving as the Red Sox's designated hitter, manager Terry Francona hopes less playing time will lead to more production.
"The more rest he has, the better," Francona said of Lowell, who is batting .296 with 11 home runs and 49 RBIs in 76 games this season. "Don't get me wrong, I don't think he's going to come in and want to have rest, because he's a grinder and always has been. But I do think the rest will help him."
In six games following the arrival of first baseman Adam LaRoche, who allows Francona to play Kevin Youkilis at third base in Lowell's absence, the 12-year veteran has received two days off -- on Sunday and Monday -- to rest his surgically repaired right hip.
"If we're going to make sense of getting an Adam LaRoche and having that extra player, I want to make the best use of it we can," Francona said.
Lowell is 12-for-28 (.429) in eight games since coming off the disabled list on July 17, including a three-run homer as part of a five-RBI night on Wednesday.
Second-half results, however, will not come without routine maintenance of the 35-year-old's troublesome hip.
"He's a diligent kid," Francona said. "When he's not playing, he's doing some things [in the training room]. He's working hard."
An adapted role -- while accepted for the time being -- won't sit well with Lowell if the Red Sox continue to struggle through a post-All-Star break swoon that has seen them lose eight of their past 11 games.
"We're going to see how it goes," Lowell said earlier this week. "I was told I was going to get more days off, but I don't think anything is ever etched in stone.
"Like I've said in the past, winning determines who plays. You've got to win games, plain and simple. What we haven't been doing is winning games, whether it's [because of] one aspect or another. We have to find the combination that does. I think we're all on the same page on that."Pitching matchup
BOS: LHP Jon Lester (9-7, 3.79 ERA)
Lester continues to dazzle during a dominant run that has seen him allow no more than three runs in each of his past 10 starts, a stretch that began on May 31. The 25-year-old workhorse is 6-2 over that span with a 1.83 ERA and 84 strikeouts. He is coming off his third strong outing of the season against the Orioles, who mustered just two runs against the power southpaw over 7 1/3 innings last Saturday at Fenway Park. In seven career starts against Oakland, Lester is 2-3 with a 4.74 ERA and a 32:17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. OAK: LHP Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 7.75 ERA)
Gonzalez followed up a dismal outing with one of the best starts of his young career last Saturday at Yankee Stadium. The 23-year-old left-hander worked 6 2/3 innings, allowing one run on two hits against the Yankees in a 6-4 A's victory. After the game, Derek Jeter called Gonzalez "outstanding." In his previous outing, a July 20 start against Minnesota, Gonzalez surrendered 11 earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings of work. Tidbits
One day after right-hander Tim Wakefield (lower back strain) threw off flat ground for the first time since landing on the disabled list on July 21, Francona said there is no timetable for the veteran knuckleballer to pitch off a mound. ... Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has recorded multihit games in each of his past six contests, batting 13-for-28 (.464) over that span. ... The Red Sox are 9-18 against the American League West this season. Tickets
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Friday: Red Sox (John Smoltz, 1-4, 7.04) at Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie, 7-9, 5.21), 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday: Red Sox (Josh Beckett, 12-4, 3.44) at Orioles (David Hernandez, 3-2, 3.20), 7:05 p.m. ET
Sunday: Red Sox (Clay Buchholz, 1-1, 3.52) at Orioles (Rich Hill, 3-3, 7.80), 1:35 p.m. ET
John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.