ST. PETERSBURG -- After a string of 51 consecutive starts, Jacoby Ellsbury got a partial night off in the Red Sox's 4-2 win over the Rays on Thursday.
However, the respite was not Ellsbury's idea.
"You know what, he wanted to play," said manager Terry Francona. "I just thought he's been beating himself up and he's going to get in late. I just thought it would be a good night. I wanted to play [Mike Cameron] and [Darnell McDonald], and I just think overall it's in his best interest. I'm glad the fact that he wanted to play. I kind of had to wrestle with it a little bit, because he's doing so well. I think it will be good for him."
Ellsbury, who played just 18 games last year because of left rib woes, has responded well to this year's workload. Aside from Adrian Gonzalez, he is the only Red Sox player who had participated in the team's first 67 games. Ellsbury was out of the lineup for three days earlier in the season when he was slumping, but he had started every game since April 20.
"I feel good," Ellsbury said. "It's the same thing anybody else is going through, playing this many games. I can't complain. I tried to plead with them to be in the lineup tonight."
With the Red Sox holding a 3-2 lead in the eighth, Ellsbury flied out while pinch-hitting for Cameron.
The left-handed-hitting leadoff man has given the Red Sox a big boost this season, hitting .314 with seven homers, 33 RBIs and 24 stolen bases.
"He's been tremendous," said Francona. "He wants to play every day. You can tell. He's done everything we could have asked. It's impressive. I don't think it's any coincidence that we're playing better. He's setting the table, he's driving runs in, he's playing defense, he's doing everything."
With Ellsbury out of the mix, McDonald led off and played center. Cameron filled in for J.D. Drew, batting eighth and playing right.
Lowrie, Buchholz dealing with health woes
ST. PETERSBURG -- As the Red Sox departed Tropicana Field on Thursday night following an 8-1 road trip, shortstop Jed Lowrie and starting pitcher Clay Buchholz both faced some health uncertainty.
Lowrie left the game following a strikeout in the top of the first, when he felt his already-ailing left shoulder worsen. Buchholz got the win on Thursday, but his performance was limited to five innings and 81 pitches, thanks to lower back tightness.
Of the injuries, Buchholz's seemed like more of a nag, where Lowrie's could be more severe.
"It felt like [my shoulder] slipped out," said Lowrie. "No, it wasn't out. It just felt like it, but it went back in."
Lowrie has been feeling discomfort in his left shoulder since May 29, when he had a collision in Detroit with teammate Carl Crawford. He is 5-for-39 since the injury and grimaced after his strikeout against David Price.
The shortstop will be examined on Friday back in Boston by team medical director Dr. Tom Gill.
So, too, will Buchholz, whose back has nagged him in recent weeks. With the Red Sox already expected to recall Andrew Miller from Triple-A Pawtucket and start a game as early as Monday, it could be a good time to give Buchholz a breather and let his back heal up.
The Red Sox gave him two extra days of rest prior to his start on June 10 in Toronto.
"We certainly don't want to go through the rest of the year like this, having this thing linger," said manager Terry Francona. "We'll get him reevaluated. There's some days off coming up. We'll get him looked at tomorrow by Dr. Gill and see where to go from there."
Buchholz didn't seem overly worried about it.
"Grabbing is pretty accurate," Buchholz said. "It feels like a pulled muscle that's in there. Every time I tried to get out and extend a little bit more with just about every pitch, that's when I felt it. The last inning, I felt like I was compensating in my delivery for it. I think that's how you're going to get yourself hurt in other places."
Lowrie was out of the lineup for the first two days in New York last week and underwent an MRI, which came back clean.
After starting for three straight days, Lowrie was out of the lineup the next two games before returning Tuesday night.
Things seemed to worsen after the swing and miss against Price.
"Well, yeah. I mean, I certainly wasn't this sore [before]," Lowrie said. "I don't really know what's going on yet either. I just know what I felt."