09/30/08 7:55 PM ET
Francona mum on Game 1 lineup
Drew, Lowell work out, but readiness for opener uncertain
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
Francona said he wouldn't be ready to make any decisions on Drew, who is battling a bum back, and Lowell, who has a partially torn labrum in his right hip, until he huddled with his coaches at the team hotel Tuesday night.
"We'll probably talk to the players later just so they know for [Wednesday]," he said. "But J.D. looked really good. I actually thought Mikey Lowell looked really good. He's not done doing what he needs to do, but he looked encouraging moving around."
Before the Red Sox began their workout at Angel Stadium, Drew, wearing an ice pack strapped to his lower back, said he is confident he'll be ready to start in right field Wednesday.
"In my mind, I'm 100 percent sure [I'll be playing]," he said. "Everything else is up to Tito."
Drew, who has just four at-bats since Aug. 17, did admit he is concerned about the rust factor.
"That's the tough thing -- timing and baseball activity, which I haven't done a lot of," he said. "I can't predict anything. I'll just continue to do the treatment I've been doing."
Drew took part in the normal workout routines Tuesday, shagging fly balls in the outfield and taking batting practice.
Lowell was also out on the field, and he appeared to take grounders at third without incident.
Before the workout, Lowell wasn't positive that would be the case.
"The writing will be on the wall," he had said with a smile. "Either I'll keel over because it hurts, or I won't. There won't be any mystery to it."
That Lowell didn't keel over was certainly a positive sign -- one Francona would keep in mind when he sat down to construct his Game 1 lineup to throw at Angels right-hander John Lackey.
If Lowell is unavailable, Francona has his share of backup options. Kevin Youkilis could move over to third, and Sean Casey or Mark Kotsay could man first. Or Jed Lowrie could move over to third and Alex Cora could get the start at short.
Should Drew be unavailable Wednesday, Jacoby Ellsbury could move to right field and Coco Crisp could take over in center.
One option Francona won't consider -- particularly against a pesky team such as the Angels -- is taking David Ortiz out of his designated-hitter spot and moving him to first, so that Lowell or Drew could at least participate at the plate.
"David is our DH," Francona said. "With the way the Angels play the game, [having Ortiz in the field] wouldn't put our best team on the field."
Playing the field is what presents a problem for Lowell, the reigning World Series MVP who has just one at-bat since Sept. 16 and missed 31 games in August and September. He said he feels fine swinging the bat.
"This isn't the first time I've tried to play through something," Lowell said. "It is the first time I've been medically diagnosed with something that's not going to get better unless I get it surgically fixed."
Given the Angels' ability to run and bunt to their advantage, Francona has good reason to want his best defensive alignment on the field. If Lowell is healthy, he's the obvious choice over Youkilis at third.
"If I said we weren't concerned about [Lowell's] health, I don't think that would be entirely honest," Francona said. "He's one of the best defensive third basemen in the league. If he's able to move around and he's not in any pain, he's a smart defender. He knows how to play, where to play."
With Lowell's status not completely certain, Francona had to consider all his options.
"The one reassuring thing is whoever we play, guys are willing to move to different positions," he said. "We've done it all year and they do what you ask and they don't think twice about it."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.