Notes: Papelbon makes statement

Notes: Papelbon makes a pitch for rotation

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Bullpen or rotation? Jonathan Papelbon has pondered it for sure, but he still doesn't know what role he will be in when the Red Sox start their season in Texas on April 3. As the right-hander took the mound for his start on Friday against the Marlins, his role was not even on his radar screen. All Papelbon wanted to do was produce a string of zeroes, something he's struggled to do this spring.

In other words, this was a gratifying day for the hard-throwing righty, who fired five shutout innings and gave up just one hit while striking out two.

For a man who entered the day with a 0-2 record and a 10.13 ERA in three starts, this was just what he needed.

"There's no doubt about it, I wanted to go out there and I wanted to throw good," said Papelbon. "It was definitely what I was focused on. I wasn't really focused on what I needed to do mechanically out there today. I really went out there and just focused on trying to get the first hitter of every inning and set the tempo."

And aside from a leadoff walk to Mickey Lopez in the third, Papelbon accomplished his mission, starting four of his five innings with a clean slate.

While the Red Sox look at Papelbon as one of the future building blocks of their rotation, they'll likely be hard pressed to find a spot for him in a rotation which already has Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett, David Wells, Tim Wakefield, Matt Clement and Bronson Arroyo.

Until he is told otherwise, Papelbon will continue along on a starting pitcher's schedule during camp.

"You know what, we'll discuss that this week," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "It's getting to the point where we need to sit down as a staff. I think we've got some ideas [about] what we'll do. I just want to talk to Theo [Epstein] a little bit about it and get his input. We've got a couple ideas."

Papelbon's main objective for 2006 is to pitch well, no matter what role he is put in.

"The way I look at it is, I want to go out and pitch effectively and help my team," said Papelbon. "I want to be put in situations where I can help out. I want to be out there pitching to where I can help win. That's the way I like at it. I want to help the Red Sox get to the [World Series] and win games, that's all I'm really worried about.

Sitdown with Boomer: A day after left-hander David Wells expressed dismay at the possibility the Red Sox will skip him over during the early part of the season because of multiple days off, Francona discussed the issue with the Boomer.

"I think he felt like somebody might have pushed his buttons a little bit. I try to speak in generalities, because I don't want to ever communicate through the media," Francona said. "I think he felt like maybe I did that a little bit. I certainly don't ever want to do that."

Is it still a possible scenario that Wells, coming off knee surgery, will start his season a little later than the other pitchers in the rotation?

"Again, we're going to see how it all works out," Francona said. "I'd rather not set it up, because I don't know what's going to happen. You just look at it logically. He started a couple of weeks late, he's had knee surgery, you can't just start picking and choosing the dates that guys are pitching or it won't work. Now, saying that, once you do that, if you have to plug a guy in at some point, this just seems to make sense for the team. I explained that to him, and Theo did, too.

"I like Boomer as a pitcher a lot. ... I just have some responsibilities for our team that I have to -- I don't know if enforce is the right word -- but look out for. It's certainly not a respect thing or anything like that. I don't work like that; we don't work like that."

Mixed bag for Youk: In one way, it was a painful day for Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis, as he hit a ball off his left foot in the second inning, and, later in the game, pounded a line drive off the protective brace he placed over his instep.

But it was also a gratifying day, as he pummeled a three-run homer in his second at-bat, his third of the spring.

Youkilis, entering his first season as an everyday player, has looked confident at the plate throughout camp.

"I'll tell you what, he's a good hitter," Francona said. "He's still commanding the strike zone, but he's putting [together] more aggressive swings as he's getting older and more mature and stronger. It's fun to watch."

Classic returnees: With Team USA having been bounced from the World Baseball Classic on Thursday, the Red Sox will get catcher Jason Varitek and reliever Mike Timlin back in camp on Saturday. With the club making a lengthy bus ride to Dunedin, Fla., Varitek and Timlin are both slated to stay back at City of Palms Park and get their work in there. Timlin will throw on the side; Varitek will likely make his first start of the exhibition season on Sunday at home against the Orioles.

Utility infielder Alex Cora, who was part of the Puerto Rico squad that got eliminated on Wednesday, will fly from San Juan to Tampa and play for the Sox on Saturday in Dunedin.

Designated hitter David Ortiz and reliever Julian Tavarez are the only Boston players still missing from camp as a result of their Dominican representation in the Classic. The Dominican will play Cuba on Saturday. With a win, it would advance to the championship game on Monday.

How soon will Ortiz get back into the lineup after he returns to the Red Sox?

"I've talked to him two or three times," said Francona. "I know he's really enjoying himself, [so] whatever those guys need. If they feel the need to get right back in there, we'll do it. If they feel like maybe they need a day or two to separate themselves and take a little blow with all the travel and excitement ... whatever they need."

Foulke and Clement: Closer Keith Foulke will face hitters for the second time this spring when he throws batting practice at City of Palms Park on Saturday morning. Rather than take the bus ride to Dunedin, Francona will stay back and watch Foulke and Clement, who is pitching in a Minor League game.

Francona also wants to catch up with Varitek and Timlin after not seeing them since March 2.

Huckaby back in there: Ken Huckaby, vying to win the backup catching spot, will make his first start of the spring on Saturday against the Jays. Huckaby has been sidelined with knee woes. Of course, a big qualification for being Boston's backup catcher will be being able to handle the knuckleball of Tim Wakefield. With Wakefield scheduled to get his work in out of the bullpen on Sunday, Francona isn't sure when Huckaby will get his first crack at catching the knuckler.

More cuts: The Red Sox announced their second round of cuts on Friday, paring the number of players in camp down to 40 (including the 10 non-roster invitees). Right-hander Cla Meredith was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. The following players were all assigned to Minor League camp: Right-hander Matt Ginter, left-handers Mike Bumatay and Phil Seibel; infielder Jed Lowrie and outfielder Luke Allen.

Seeing green: To commemorate St. Patrick's Day, the Red Sox wore green uniform tops and hats for Friday's game. The bases were also green and the stands at City of Palms Park were a sea of green.

Coming up: Left-hander Lenny DiNardo, vying for a spot as a long man in the bullpen, will start Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET against the Jays. Bench coach Brad Mills will manage the team.

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