Notes: Francona a big fan of Hinske

Notes: Francona a big fan of Hinske

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Eric Hinske, the 2002 American League Rookie of the Year, will likely be a reserve this season for the Red Sox. While manager Terry Francona knows Hinske is probably not satisfied with that role, he appreciates the value of it and the versatility Hinske provides.

In eight games this spring, Hinske is batting .292, with a home run, four doubles and five RBIs in 24 at-bats. He is scheduled to start in the outfield on Friday against the Dodgers in Vero Beach.

"He has swung the bat really well," Francona said. "He's a great guy, a great team guy. Last year he probably didn't play as much as he wanted. Going into this year, he probably knows that there's not a lot of at-bats. But he's a good team guy. He'll be playing a little third, a little first.

"He's got that left-handed bat that's got some sock in it. He can win us some games. And I'm sure there's going to be some times where that frustrates him, but he's a good team guy. His attitude is outstanding. He came into camp in great shape. He has had a good spring. I don't think he likes it. [Alex] Cora, guys like that, find ways to put the team ahead of their own personal desires, and it really helps you make it work. That's our responsibility to them -- to let them know that we appreciate him. We respect him."

Beckett takes loss: Despite a solid outing, Josh Beckett was charged with the loss Thursday night against the Mets. Beckett threw five innings, allowing three runs -- two earned -- on six hits, while striking out one.

"It's fun when you can throw all your pitches for strikes," Beckett said.

Beckett, who went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts, said he adhered to the stern warnings about his plate appearances.

"When you got a gun held to your head telling you not to swing, you don't swing," he said.

Hansen decisions: Reliever Craig Hansen, who pitched the eighth inning Thursday night and allowed a sole home run to the Mets' Ramon Castro, is creating some questions for the Sox.

Asked if Hansen might benefit from additional Minor League innings before joining the big-league club, Francona said: "He might benefit more from Major League innings. That's what we're going to have to decide. That happened with Manny Delcarmen two years ago. We had to send him down, because he didn't have enough innings. You don't want to get into a situation where that happens.

"I don't think I have an answer for you yet, but they're legitimate, good questions. There's nothing wrong with them and they're not questions that we haven't asked each other. We're going to try to answer that with a lot of guys. Those are all pertinent questions and realistic, and we just aren't ready to answer them."

About Hansen's outing on Thursday night, Francona would like to see more consistency from the right-hander.

"Unfortunately, we saw a little bit different mechanically," the skipper said. "There's still some changes going on. Some are by design. I think some are not. He's still learning, and he and [pitching coach] John [Farrell] are trying to find. He had a little more swing in his delivery tonight. [He was] trying to stay back, but [he was] probably doing the opposite. His fastball flattened out and it got whacked pretty good. So there's some inconsistency there. But he's eager to learn, and that's good."

Pedro sightings: Former Sox ace Pedro Martinez worked out earlier in the day, but stayed to visit with some of his former teammates.

Asked by a New York writer if Martinez had left a legacy with the Sox, as currently constituted, Francona replied: "In the middle of March, I don't have a good answer for that. Nobody was late today. You know he's a Hall of Famer. I respect that. There probably is [a legacy], but I don't think it has shaped our '07 team."

Skipping Philly: Francona said he is planning to leave pitchers Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield and Jonathan Papelbon and catcher Doug Mirabelli in Fort Myers, when the team travels to Philadelphia for two exhibition games with the Phillies on March 30 and 31.

Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka are scheduled to start those games in Philadelphia.

Francona also said using the designated hitter in those games was part of the deal in agreeing to play.

Big numbers: The crowd of 7,325 on Thursday night was a record for Tradition Field, which opened in 1988.

On the road again: It took the Sox nearly four hours by bus to travel from Fort Myers to Port St. Lucie on Thursday, not an effective way to prepare for a game, Francona said.

"It's not good. It's actually kind of [bad]," he said. "It's something that I hope we can remedy in the near future, whether its taking a four-day road trip and just staying, because it's hard to get your work done.

"We struggle to get our work done. Our location can't do anything about that, but we're on the road a lot and teams want to play the Red Sox. I understand that. I would, too. But it's harder for us to get our work done than other teams. Some young guy came a long way to get a pinch-hit tonight."

Up next: The Sox travel to Vero Beach, Fla., on Friday to face the Dodgers at 1:05 p.m. ET. Matsuzaka is scheduled to start, followed by Hideki Okajima and Delcarmen. In two Grapefruit League starts, Matsuzaka is 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA, allowing eight hits and a walk and striking out six in seven innings.

Maureen Mullen is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.