Notes: Plans for Papelbon

Notes: Plans for Papelbon

BOSTON -- While optioning hard-throwing prospect Jon Papelbon back to Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday, the Red Sox made it pretty clear that the right-hander will be back to play a significant role in the not too distant future.

With an eye toward using him out of the bullpen for the stretch run of the season, the Sox sent Papelbon back to Pawtucket with a structured program. General manager Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona and player development director Ben Cherington huddled with Papelbon on Tuesday to go over the plan.

Papelbon, who made an impressive spot start (5 1/3 innings, three runs, seven strikeouts) for the Red Sox in his Major League debut on Sunday against the Twins, hasn't performed regular work as a reliever since his days as a closer at Mississippi State.

"It's kind of unique when it works out like it actually does," said Francona. "In Fort Myers this spring, Theo and I were sitting around, he said, 'His best-case scenario, this guy burns through Double-A, goes through Triple-A, comes up and helps us in the bullpen.' Because he's a couple of years out of college, he's getting to a point this season where he's about reached his innings where you want to keep an eye on him. It's actually about run the course that, I guess, we hoped. So rather than trade for people, we may have better people in our organization. Let's let him go get ready in the bullpen."

Assuming Papelbon has a smooth trial run at Pawtucket, he'll be back to team with Manny Delcarmen, giving the Sox two intriguing youngsters in the bullpen.

"He's going to be a success wherever he pitches," said Francona. "As far as our ballclub goes, we think he can come back and help us. So let's give him a chance to go get ready to do that."

Cruz arrives: There was a new face in the clubhouse before Tuesday's game, as Jose Cruz Jr. -- acquired from the Diamondbacks on Saturday -- was not only activated, but was the starting right fielder, batting eighth.

It has been a tough year for the switch hitter, from back woes to a season-long hitting slump to, ultimately being designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks and then traded.

But he seemed excited to land in Boston.

"I love the atmosphere here," said Cruz, who hit .213 with 12 homers and 28 RBIs. "I always tell everybody that this is the best atmosphere to play. It's going to be interesting to play here every day."

Cruz has plenty of experience at Fenway from the time he spent with the Mariners (1997) and Blue Jays ('97-02). He was designated for assignment last week, which at least gave him a chance to rest the back that has bothered him this season.

"Everything is good," said Cruz. "It took a little bit of an adjustment after I came back a little too early so my body was fighting to recover fast enough. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't. I guess that was to be expected according to what the doctor said. I kind of just kept working at it, working at it ... I haven't really played that much the last couple of weeks so it's had a chance to heal more than it did before."

Olerud still sore: First baseman John Olerud (left hamstring) was potentially unavailable for Tuesday night's game. He suffered the injury running the bases on Sunday.

"He's a little tender today," said Francona. "I don't want to say more tender, but more than we were hoping to be. He saw the trainers yesterday and they thought he was a little bit better. Today, maybe not quite as much improvement as we hoped."

Foulke antsy: Closer Keith Foulke continues to make progress on his rehab from left knee surgery and the Red Sox expect him back at some point in August. Foulke is sick of being a spectator.

"Yeah, I'm tired of sitting around," said Foulke. "I'm bored. The couch has a big dent in it."

He didn't feel like getting into specifics about when he would return.

"We don't have a schedule, no timeframe, I work hard every day," said Foulke. "I do what I can do."

Though the master plan has Curt Schilling returning to the rotation when Foulke comes off the disabled list, Foulke is not making any assumptions about how he'll be used when he gets back.

"My pay is the same either way. You know. I want to go out there and help my team win," said Foulke. "Whatever they think is my best role, that's what I'll do."

Good to go: Though the press notes still listed Thursday's starter for the Red Sox as a "TBA", Matt Clement has been cleared to make his return that day. Clement threw on the side on Tuesday, and is fine to make his first start since July 26, when he was drilled just above the right ear on a line shot by Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford.

On deck: Right-hander Wade Miller (3-4, 4.57 ERA), after missing his last start with shoulder stiffness, pitches the second game of this three-game series on Wednesday night. The Royals counter with Kyle Snyder (0-2, 8.59 ERA).

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