Notes: Sox prepared to start Papelbon

Notes: Sox prepared to start Papelbon

DETROIT -- After making an impressive Major League debut against the Twins on July 31, hard-throwing righty Jon Papelbon left Red Sox fans thirsting for another glimpse.

So rest assured -- Red Sox Nation will be tuned in on Tuesday night, when Papelbon takes the mound at Comerica Park against the Tigers in place of the injured Wade Miller.

Following Monday's game, the Red Sox officially announced that Papelbon was recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket. As a result, another one of the team's hard-throwing prospects -- right-hander Manny Delcarmen -- was optioned back to Pawtucket.

In his first Major League start, Papelbon went 5 2/3 innings and allowed two earned runs while striking out seven and giving the Fenway Park radar gun a good workout.

Two days after that outing, the Red Sox optioned Papelbon back to Pawtucket and converted him to the bullpen for two reasons. The first was that they didn't want the 24-year-old Papelbon to work too many innings this season. The second was that they felt Papelbon could help the Red Sox out of the bullpen for the 2005 stretch run.

But the plans changed, at least temporarily, when Miller went on the disabled list with shoulder stiffness.

The Red Sox are looking forward to seeing Papelbon take the ball again.

"He's another one of our young, bright guys who we just think has a great future," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "And, at the same time, we think he can handle the responsibility of winning a game here right now."

Papelbon last pitched on Thursday at Pawtucket, firing three perfect innings for his first save.

He has pitched well everywhere he's been this season. At Double-A Portland, Papelbon was 5-2 with a 2.48 ERA, striking out 83 batters in 87 innings. He pitched seven times for Pawtucket (four starts, three relief appearances), going 1-2 with a 2.93 ERA.

The Red Sox were pleased with what Delcarmen did in his stint out of the bullpen, which began on July 26. The right-hander is expected to return by Sept. 1, when rosters are expanded.

"We think his future is very bright -- we got glimpses of it [the last few weeks]," said Francona. "There's a couple of weeks until September, [so] it's a great opportunity for him to get consistent innings, not where he sits for four or five days. We were really pleased [with] the way he acted professionally and handled some responsibility the first time in the Major Leagues. But this will be a good opportunity for him to go back and pitch a little more consistently and then come back and help us."

Damon back: Two days of rest wound up being just what Johnny Damon's ailing hamstring needed. The leadoff man was back in center field against the Tigers on Monday night, when his 15-game hitting streak came to an end.

Olerud almost back: First baseman John Olerud, eligible to come off the disabled list on Tuesday, will instead be activated on Wednesday. The Red Sox will face left-hander Nate Robertson on Tuesday, so Francona felt it made more sense to wait another day before getting the left-handed hitter back in the mix. Roberto Petagine has stepped up while Olerud has been out, hitting .286 with one homer and eight RBIs.

"I feel like I'm ready to go. I ran the bases the last couple of days," said Olerud. "I feel great."

A 161-game season? It's very possible that Sunday's postponement against the White Sox will never be made up, unless it winds up being necessary to determine playoff seeding.

The teams have two common off-days (Aug. 22 and Sept. 5), neither of which is convenient. The Red Sox play in Anaheim on Aug. 21 and are spending Monday's off-day in Kansas City before opening a series there on Tuesday night. And Sept. 5 is scheduled to be Boston's first day off after 13 games. If the Red Sox played that day, it would mean they would play a stretch of 30 days in a row.

As per Players Association rules, Red Sox players would have to give the seal of approval to play on Sept. 5, something that seems highly unlikely.

"Competitively, I don't know if it makes sense for us to play it," said Francona. "If we got pushed to a situation later in the season where we had to play it, the White Sox wouldn't want to use a single player that's going to the playoffs."

The White Sox currently lead the AL Central by 12 1/2 games, so it's hard to imagine they would have any interest in playing a make-up game the day after the regular season ends.

Nixon trots along: Right fielder Trot Nixon continues to progress in his rehab from a left oblique strain.

"Trot came out early today from 2 to 3 [p.m.] and took fly balls, ground balls, went in the corner, threw to third [and] hit and ran the bases," said Francona. "[He] did a lot -- did very well. In the next couple of days, he'll do what the team does, with the exception of playing in the game. We'll just kind of keep an eye on him for a while. He's doing very well, though."

Though the Red Sox haven't decided yet when Nixon will go on a Minor League rehab stint, he is expected to need only a day or two of at-bats in the Minor Leagues before being activated.

On deck: The Red Sox and Tigers will meet again on Tuesday night for the middle game of this three-game set. Papelbon (0-0, 3.38 ERA) will be opposed by Robertson, who is 5-10 with a 4.10 ERA this season.

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