Notes: Epstein's strategy unchanged

Notes: Epstein's strategy unchanged

BOSTON -- Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and his front office gurus have been bunkered down for days now, banging the phones in the quest to make the club stronger for the stretch run. So it isn't as if the Yankees' deal for the strong left-handed bat of Bobby Abreu on Sunday was going to add any urgency for an already-frenzied Epstein and Co.

But there's no doubt it has increased the scrutiny on the Red Sox as the clock makes those final ticks toward Monday's 4 p.m. ET trade deadline.

"I know Theo and those guys have been burning up the phone lines just out of an obligation to cover all the bases," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I think that would be a mistake to make a trade just because of what [the Yankees did]. And I think, in fact I know, those guys are smart enough. If they think they can make us better, they will. I think I've always felt that way."

The best news from where Francona sits is that he has full confidence in his team, which has led the American League East since June 16, whether an impact move is made or not.

"I think we all really like our team. That's the biggest thing for me," Francona said. "I like our team. I wish I could sit here and guarantee we were good enough to win the World Series. I can't do that. I still really like this team. If nothing happened, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

"And I know they're trying to make us better, they always are. But again, I think our job as coaches and me as the manager is to take those guys and get them to play as good as they can. That's how I'm comfortable. I don't have to make myself feel that way, that's how I feel. I just think it's the best way to go about things."

Especially in a market like Boston, the rumor mill is always going to be on overdrive in the final hours leading up to the deadline.

Last week, Francona assured Mike Lowell that there was no truth to a rumor that had the third baseman going to the Padres for Jake Peavy. He gave center fielder Coco Crisp some similar reassurance on Saturday.

"Theo actually called me yesterday and told me to say something to Coco. Again, I didn't know [the rumor], and I did [say something], because there was nothing to that," Francona said. "That's the age we're in with so much media, the Internet, it's stuff you have to deal with it. There's only another day."

Loretta resting, not moving: The first question in Francona's pregame meeting Sunday was an inquiry on why second baseman Mark Loretta was not in the lineup.

"Yeah, he's not getting traded," said Francona. "I didn't even think of that. Just with the late night the other night, I just want our guys to go the last couple of months and not be dragging. [Alex] Cora is a good player. ... I might even turn around tomorrow and play AC at short. I think it does our club good."

Cora, who also batted in Loretta's No. 2 slot of the order, has been an invaluable utilityman for the Red Sox this season. Entering Sunday night's start, he was hitting .298.

Impact of Abreu: Francona managed Abreu for three seasons in Philadelphia, so he knows as well as anyone the kind of hitter the Yankees have landed.

"You know what, he is an impact player," Francona said. "My hope is he stinks. My concern is that he goes over there for a couple of months and he might be one of the best players in baseball, because I think he has that in him. He's a good player."

Nixon strains arm: Right fielder Trot Nixon had to leave Sunday's game after straining his right arm on a swing and miss in the third inning. Nixon was replaced in the game by Wily Mo Pena. Nixon was listed as day-to-day.

Delcarmen nicked up: Reliever Manny Delcarmen was not used in Saturday's 11-inning contest because he's had some recent discomfort on the skin of his right thumb. It is not considered a significant injury, but Francona will monitor him over the next couple of days.

"He just had an area on his thumb that was sore, so they checked it out and he was fine but it was sore," Francona said. "So how it happened, he doesn't know. But when he was throwing his breaking ball, he was leaving it up. His velocity is still fine. He just wasn't locating quite as well. If it takes a day or two to let that thing go away, that's what we'll do."

Coming up: Left-hander David Wells makes his return from the disabled list Monday night against the Indians. Wells was struck on his surgically repaired right knee by a Travis Lee line drive on May 26 and it was questionable if he'd be able to make it back. The Red Sox are enthused that he might be able to give them a boost down the stretch. The Indians will counter with right-hander Paul Byrd.

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