Notes: Timlin prepared to take the lead

Notes: Timlin prepared to take the lead

FORT MYERS -- Mike Timlin is two weeks shy of turning 41. He could never forget that because his age is brought up to him by nearly every reporter who comes in his path. Timlin estimates that he's been asked about his age in 20 separate interviews already this spring.

In other words, Timlin couldn't help but feel as if he was feeding the aging perception that people have of him when he had to cut short his batting practice session Sunday with a tweak in his lower back.

"The old guy is starting to fall apart," quipped Timlin.

Actually, the old guy -- as Timlin mockingly called himself -- is doing just fine, Sunday's minor injury aside.

Assuming Timlin bounces back from this minor injury, he will be first out of the bullpen in Wednesday's exhibition opener against the Twins, taking over for Curt Schilling in the third inning.

It is then that the audition for the closer's role can officially begin. The three relievers who are battling Timlin for the spot -- Julian Tavarez, Joel Pineiro and Brendan Donnelly -- will follow him in that game.

Conventional wisdom says that Timlin is too valuable in the setup role to be used as the closer. Timlin, however, views the situation differently.

"Well, when you become a relief pitcher or you become a starter, you want to do the best possible job," Timlin said. "You want to go to the pinnacle of your job. As a relief pitcher, things are slowly changing, but [closing] is usually assumed to be the pinnacle. I will close. If the opportunity is there, I'll take it."

And with 139 career saves, Timlin clearly has earned a fair shot in the competition.

He just hopes that the situation gets handled differently than in 2003, when the Red Sox opened the season with their infamous closer-by-committee.

Timlin looks back and remembers former manager Grady Little giving save opportunities to Chad Fox, Alan Embree, Ramiro Mendoza, Brandon Lyon and Bobby Howry. Somehow, his name never got called.

"During the whole closer-by-committee, when we threw a vote in, I got left out," Timlin said.

Timlin is confident the matter will be handled in far more organized fashion this time around.

"No, this will not be the sequel to the committee," Timlin said. "We will have roles."

Though Timlin has done good work in a supporting role in the past, he wouldn't mind being the leading man this time around.

Matsuzaka vs. Big Papi? Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to throw his second round of batting practice Monday, and his competition might be far more intriguing this time around. After facing four Minor Leaguers on Saturday, there's a chance Matsuzaka will face off against the hitting group that includes David Ortiz, Wily Mo Pena and Julio Lugo.

Matsuzaka is scheduled to pitch on Field 5, which is where Ortiz's group has been doing its work.

Tito out sick: For the second time in three days, Red Sox manager Terry Francona had to skip the workout because of the flu. In his absence, bench coach Brad Mills and pitching coach John Farrell ran the show.

"We talked this morning. He called me last night and said that he really wasn't doing very well," Mills said. "The doctor was going to see him last night and the doctor stopped off and saw him again this morning, twice. Then we talked this morning and we texted a little right before I came out. He wasn't doing too good. He probably shouldn't have been out here yesterday, but he wants to be out here worse than anybody else."

Francona hopes to be back on the field Monday.

Lester plays waiting game: Though the Red Sox haven't announced a date for lefty Jon Lester's first start of the exhibition season, that should be happening shortly.

"Our approach coming into camp was to get through this first segment, and that includes all of batting practice to reassess his situation and then map out a plan going forward that would be communicated directly to Jon and the rest of us," Farrell said.

"With each outing, his stamina continues to improve. We just know that he is in a recovery phase, and we have to factor that into the scheduling of his workloads. He continues to make improvement each and every time out. It was an impressive batting practice session for him yesterday, but we haven't penciled him in for any game activity as of yet."

Aches and pains: Outfielder Wily Mo Pena had to cut short his day Sunday after fouling a ball off his left foot. Believe it or not, it was a first for the big slugger. Pena said it was the first time in his career he's fouled a ball off his foot.

In other news, reliever Craig Hansen was hoping to get back on the field Sunday after missing three days with back soreness.

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