PHILADELPHIA -- Now that the Red Sox are on a mini-roll, with five wins in their past six games, perhaps the timing is right for a pivotal three-game series at Tropicana Field against the Rays, which starts Monday night.
The last time the Red Sox played the Rays was April 16-19, when Tampa Bay pulled out a four-game sweep at Fenway.
The Red Sox, even with their recent surge, are 8 1/2 games behind the Rays in the American League East.
"We weren't playing very well the first time we faced them, so hopefully we can go in there and play better," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "We're swinging the bats good, we're finding ways to win, we're pitching good, we're playing good defense. It doesn't really matter who we play. If we play up to our capabilities, we should be able to beat teams."
The Sox send Clay Buchholz to the mound on Monday. He will be opposed by Wade Davis.
"They're good," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of the Rays. "We get on the plane feeling good about ourselves, because we played a good game today but the momentum kind of builds and hopefully [doesn't] end with your starting pitching. That's always the case."
Cameron inching toward return to Red Sox
PHILADELPHIA -- The outfield is inching back toward completion for the Red Sox. Jacoby Ellsbury returned to the active roster on Saturday night and Mike Cameron might not be far behind.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona said there's a chance that Cameron will be activated at some point during the three-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field.
The center fielder certainly had a productive day for Double-A Portland on Sunday, belting a double in his first at-bat and finishing the day with a walkoff homer.
"He had a heck of a day," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I don't think [Portland manager] Arnie [Beyeler] wants him to leave."
Cameron, who last played for the Red Sox on April 18, has been sidelined with a lower abdominal strain.
"[General manager] Theo [Epstein] is doing some scouting and travel today, but we'll kind of get together and see where we should go from here," Francona said. "Theo had a real good talk with him yesterday. We'll kind of put our heads together after the game."
Sunday marked the eighth game of Cameron's Minor League rehab assignment, which has included some interspersed breaks. He is hitting .333 in the Minors with three homers, six RBIs and a 1.187 OPS.
Tek won't be Dice-K's permanent catcher
PHILADELPHIA -- With Jason Varitek behind the plate for his starts this season, Daisuke Matsuzaka is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA. This, compared to his 11.05 ERA in three starts with Victor Martinez.
The easy conclusion to draw is that Red Sox manager Terry Francona will start going out of his way to pair Varitek and Dice-K. But that doesn't appear to be in the cards.
"Victor is our catcher," said Francona. "If you start having days he's not your catcher, there's a trickle-down effect, because he's our No. 3 hitter. If you want to keep him in the lineup [at DH or first base], somebody else leaves the lineup. It certainly doesn't take away from what Tek brings, because that's always been a strength of his, but one thing kind of leads to another.
"So rather than fall into that, a guy pitches a good game, this guy will be his catcher, let's have whoever we have back there ... if guys are throwing the way they're supposed to, we're going to be OK. Both catchers care. I think sometimes too much is made of that. Now saying that, I agree, that's one of Tek's strengths. There's no getting around it. I don't want to get around it."
Though Varitek was behind the plate for Matsuzaka's near no-hitter on Saturday night, Dice-K went out of his way to praise Martinez after the game. He said that some advice from Martinez was key to his eight innings of one-hit ball.
And Varitek also agreed that it would not be a healthy situation if he catches all of Matsuzaka's starts.
"People have to understand one thing: If you start doing that as a team, it puts ourselves and our starting catcher in an awkward position in that he doesn't get the right days off," said Varitek. "I need to play when he needs to not play, and it doesn't matter who's on the mound. If you start getting into personal catchers and all this stuff. ... I was fortunate [Saturday] that Dice was powerful through the zone, and if we allow them to build together, it doesn't matter [who is catching]."
Keeping it clean: Youkilis riding hot streak
PHILADELPHIA -- At a time when the Red Sox are starting to click as a team, cleanup hitter Kevin Youkilis has seemingly been in the middle of every rally. There Youkilis was again in Sunday's 8-3 victory over the Phillies, going 2-for-4 with a triple and a homer and driving in three runs.
In May, he is hitting .397 with six homers and 15 RBIs.
"He's swinging the bat great," said second baseman Dustin Pedroia. "He's putting together some long at-bats and everything he hits is on the barrel. He's swinging the bat great. He always does. He finds himself in a hitters count all the time because he's such a patient hitter. Hopefully he keeps it up."
Youkilis, per usual, was pretty low-key about the streak he's on.
"I just try to work on things and try to better myself each day," Youkilis said. "Some days it works out, and some days it doesn't. That's the game of baseball. That's one of the keys to it, is you can be awful one day and then next day you can be great. You can't go on the roller-coaster ride. You've got to keep it even-keel and keep learning from your mistakes and try to add onto all the positives."
As hot as Youkilis is, that's how cold Pedroia is at the moment. Boston's No. 2 hitter went 0-for-4 on Sunday and his hitless in his past 19 at-bats.
"I just think that every player goes through periods where you're up and down a little bit," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "The good side is that when he doesn't get hits, he probably plays better defense. That's just the type of player he is. Even when he's not getting hits, we feel real comfortable playing him, because you know you're going to get every ounce of energy and he's going to play the game. Just as cold as he is, he'll get just as hot."
Pedroia didn't sound too worried.
"I hit some balls hard yesterday," Pedroia said. "I'm a foot away from having three hits and had none. That stuff happens. You go through spurts like that, but hopefully I'll find a couple of holes [Monday]."
Right fielder J.D. Drew was able to be in the starting lineup on Sunday, despite a hip flexor that has been bothering him the past couple of days. Manager Terry Francona had Bill Hall on high alert that he would get the start in right if Drew needed to be scratched at the last minute. ... Ace Josh Beckett, who is on the disabled list with a lower back strain, played catch at 120 feet before Sunday's game and could throw a side session during Boston's three-game series at Tropicana Field. Beckett is eligible to be activated on June 3. ... Sunday was Boston's last game in a National League venue until June 22, which means that David Ortiz won't need to be squeezed out of the lineup until then. With no DH this weekend, Ortiz started the middle game in the series while Kevin Youkilis played first in the other two games.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.