Notes: Sox protecting Papelbon

Notes: Sox protecting Papelbon

LAKELAND, Fla. -- With Jonathan Papelbon making the transition to the starting rotation, the Red Sox are going to be a little more conservative with his throwing program than they are with the other starters.

Papelbon will throw roughly 50 pitches in a simulated game on Monday at City of Palms Park. The other starters have jumped to about 60 pitches in their third outing, while Papelbon is staying around the same number he threw last time out.

"The reason he went into this rotation is because we're trying to protect him to an extent," said manager Terry Francona. "We will come along with him a little slower."

Will Papelbon be permitted to throw 200 innings this season?

"I don't want to say no," said Francona. "But he doesn't have to go 200 innings for us to consider it a success. I think that's a good way to put it. We're going to keep an eye on him. We're aware of what happened last year. We want to keep this kid healthy. How he pitches, how his shoulder reacts will dictate how much he pitches."

Beckett cooks up stinger: Josh Beckett gave up four hits and five runs over 3 2/3 innings to the Tigers on Saturday, but just two of the runs were earned. Dustin Pedroia made back-to-back errors to open the game, though Francona thought the second gaffe should have been charged to shortstop Alex Cora.

"I gave up some hits today that I wish I wouldn't have given up. Most of them were ground balls," said Beckett. "Guys like [Carlos] Guillen get a lot of those ground-ball hits."

The biggest hit Beckett endured came from Gary Sheffield after a collision when the right-hander was backing up home plate.

Beckett had a sore jaw for a while, though the pain had subsided by the time he spoke with reporters.

"What happened was I ran into Sheffield trying to back up home plate, and he's a pretty big guy," Beckett said. "I was fine with the run-in, and I just kind of bounced off him. When I came down, I hit my chin on the grass. Football players get it a lot. It kind of felt like a stinger."

Drew in groove: In case you haven't noticed, J.D. Drew is getting hot. He went 2-for-2 on Saturday to boost his Grapefruit League average to .462.

"He looks quiet to me at the plate," said Francona. "That's where all hitters strive to get to. I thought David [Ortiz] got a little quieter yesterday. You see Manny [Ramirez] striving for that all the time. The lack of movement, trying not to go forward. Jason [Varitek] is fighting it right now. That's what all hitters try to get to. It's a good feeling. If you could bottle it, it would be an even better feeling."

Okajima's whiff of success: Hideki Okajima made one bad pitch on Saturday, hanging a breaking ball that was belted out of the yard by Ivan Rodriguez. But overall, the southpaw had a good day, striking out four batters over 2 1/3 innings.

"He located his fastball," said Francona. "[He] left one breaking ball up 0-2, [and he did the] same thing he did the other day. But he threw some good breaking balls and did well."

Lester's next step: Left-hander Jon Lester will throw approximately 35 pitches in a simulated game on Sunday morning. After that, Lester will pitch the Minor League opener on Friday and then his next step will be evaluated. Francona was noncommittal when asked if Lester would pitch in a Grapefruit League game this spring.

"We're kind of taking his [program] in two-week increments," said Francona. "[Pitching coach John Farrell] has laid it out for him, and then we'll keep plugging away. I think he's doing fabulous."

Sheffield factor: Count Francona among those who won't mind the subtraction of Sheffield from the Yankees. Instead of facing Sheffield 18 times this season, the Red Sox must only pitch to him in the seven regular-season meetings they have with the Tigers.

Sheffield batted third for the Tigers in Saturday's game against Boston.

"He's fearless," said Francona. "I'm not making light of this, but if you throw a ball at his neck, the next pitch, he's not going anywhere. He's gonna swing that ferocious swing and put the bat on the ball. He's a pretty special guy."

Coming up: The Red Sox host the Orioles on Sunday, with Daisuke Matsuzaka making his third start. The Orioles counter with Steve Trachsel. The first pitch is slated for 1:05 p.m. ET, and you can follow the action live on MLB.TV.

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