Notes: Bellhorn plans to fight for job

Notes: Bellhorn plans to fight for job

CHICAGO -- One thing you can never accuse Red Sox second baseman Mark Bellhorn of being is unrealistic. Bellhorn knows that there are no promises in the game of baseball. He knows that is especially true when you're hitting .216 with 109 strikeouts and your slugging percentage (.360) is barely higher than your on-base percentage (.328).

When the second baseman comes off the disabled list in early August, he doesn't plan on his job being handed back to him. Instead, Bellhorn plans on wrestling it back from Tony Graffanino and Alex Cora, two recent additions to the team.

"That's the nature of the game," said Bellhorn, who sprained his left thumb on July 17. "I wasn't playing up to my capabilities. When you do that, sometimes people make changes. I look at it as incentive for me to come back and win my job back."

A player never wants to be on the disabled list. But in Bellhorn's case, he thinks that the time away just might be of benefit in what has been a truly rough season to date.

"I've been in this situation before. I know it's going to work out somehow," said Bellhorn, a hero for the Red Sox last October. "I never lose confidence in my ability. I just have to get done with this hand thing and come back, and it could be for me, a little break to clean up the struggles. You can't ever lose your confidence."

Bellhorn was asked what has gone wrong for him this season after he was a big contributor to the 2004 team, scoring 94 runs, belting 17 homers and driving in 82 runs.

"Maybe putting too much pressure on myself," said Bellhorn. "I think that's what it all comes down to. You struggle and you think you've got to change something, but you really don't. It's just a mindset."

While the main objective for Bellhorn during this DL stint is to get his thumb healthy, he plans on doing the same thing to his mind.

"I think so. You always hear [mental approach] is 90 percent of the game, especially guys at this level," Bellhorn said. "The ability is there. It's whoever is stronger mentally sometimes. This game is not football or basketball. You're playing every day. You think you've got something new and it doesn't work. Everything keeps building up, and that's kind of what it's done to me. You never want to sit out for two weeks or longer, but it's a good time for me to kind of look back and clear my mind and think of it as a new start."

Second base situation: While Bellhorn recovers, manager Terry Francona will search for the right way to mix and match the right-handed-hitting Graffanino with lefty swinger Cora.

Graffanino started his second game in as many days on Thursday night, batting ninth against White Sox ace Mark Buehrle.

"I really don't know exactly. They're both going to play," said Francona. "They're both the type of players where I don't think you have to pinch-hit for them. They've both been everyday players. I need to spend more time and get to know these guys a little better, too. You have to maybe live through it a little bit."

Manny back in there: A day after pulling himself out of Wednesday's game after the third inning because of tightness in his hamstring, Sox slugger Manny Ramirez was back in his customary cleanup spot Thursday night, playing left field.

"I don't think it's perfect. He's a little sore," Francona said. "I talked to him a couple of times and the trainers talked to him. I think he understands the importance of him being out there tonight, but I don't think it's perfect. He's going to go out there and play, which is good. The thing I was worried about was, OK, you go out there and you hurt it worse. We've got a big series and you try to play him tonight and not set him back two days. I don't think he thinks that's going to happen, so we'll keep an eye on him."

Kapler in swing: Outfielder Gabe Kapler kicked off his Minor League rehab assignment on Wednesday night, going 1-for-4 as the designated hitter for Class A (short season) Lowell. Kapler played again for Lowell on Thursday and he'll take Friday off before reporting to Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday.

"He'll go to Pawtucket and start kind of an advanced Spring Training program," said Francona. "It will be monitored. But everything was really, really good yesterday. I spoke to him for a while yesterday about not doing something stupid. He feels good, which is great. But let's keep it that way. He's got to remind himself that it's sort of a Spring Training thing. When you come to spring and even if you're healthy, you don't play 12 days in a row. I think he's pretty level-headed about it. I don't want his excitement about coming back to get in his way of coming back."

Rumors: As is the case in every large market city at this point in July, the rumor mill is in full swing. The players are trying to tune it out and hope that their core can stay intact for a run at a second consecutive World Series championship.

"This is the same group of guys that pulled together at the same time last year," said Sox first baseman Kevin Millar. "But you trust Theo [Epstein] to do the right thing. Theo's not stupid, Theo knows how to run a team, he knows how special this is. But there's things you need to upgrade. That's not our job. As players, you just play. That's their job to tinker and to do the business side of the game."

One rumor that has popped up quite a bit lately is that the Sox and Twins are having discussions surrounding Boston third baseman Bill Mueller and Minnesota reliever J.C. Romero. Millar's name was included in one of those rumors.

"Billy's a tremendous teammate, a tremendous player and a great person. The better the person you are, the tougher it is to let somebody go," said Millar. "Most of the time I've been around this game, if you've heard about a trade it never happens. That's just my knowledge of that. Most of the time, by the time the media or ESPN gets it, it never goes off. Hopefully, Billy's here."

And Millar wasn't too concerned about his name popping up.

"No, that means you're somewhat of a good player, so it means someone is asking about you and you can help somebody out," Millar said. "There's two reasons you can get traded, because you're terrible or you can help a team out. I just go with the flow."

On deck: Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, Boston's most consistent pitcher since the middle of June, takes the ball in Friday night's contest. He'll be opposed by Jon Garland (14-4, 3.21 ERA), the right-hander who is having a career year.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.