The venerable reliever's Spring Training was derailed when he injured his left oblique while throwing batting practice on Feb. 25.
As much as the Red Sox want to get their invaluable setup man back on the roster, they want to make sure they don't make the move prematurely.
"Getting Timlin back -- not part of Timlin -- would be very welcome," Francona said.
As for the rest of the bullpen, Francona was hoping not to have to use Hideki Okajima or Kyle Snyder on Sunday night. Both of those pitchers had worked the previous two days. On the other hand, he'd love to have a reason to go to closer Jonathan Papelbon.
"If there's ever a night when you're going to extend Pap, tonight's the night," Francona said. "He hasn't pitched [since Thursday] and we have a day off tomorrow. If he pitches tonight, it would be perfect. It's not always going to be perfect. I don't want to get caught in that mode where you wait for the perfect save situation, because he's too good a pitcher."
Going to the bench:
Alex Cora started Sunday night's game at second base, giving rookie Dustin Pedroia the night off. Cora followed Doug Mirabelli as the second Boston reserve to get a start.
Eric Hinske did get off the bench for a single on Saturday night, and Francona would like to get the lefty swinger some playing time during the upcoming homestand.
The manager even hinted they're could be back-to-back starts for Hinske, which could happen if Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis took turns taking a breather. In that scenario, Youkilis would start at third base in one of the games and Hinske would start both games at first.
"Give each of those guys a day and play him like back-to-back days or two out of three just to get a chance to get locked in," Francona said.
Outfielder Wily Mo Pena -- a player the Red Sox feel needs to get at-bats to continue his development -- is also waiting for his first start.
"Wily Mo is a young kid, but he's fine," Francona said. "He said, 'I understand.' It's not the easiest thing to do. That's why we try to communicate. He's gonna get at-bats. Just don't want him to sit and mope and then when he gets them, not be ready. He has not done that. He's been great."
One area the Red Sox lacked over the first five games was the long ball. The two-run shot hit by Youkilis in Wednesday's win over the Royals was Boston's only homer entering Sunday's game.
Speaking of Youkilis, he was right back in the lineup, batting in his customary two-spot, the day after rolling his left ankle.
Early flight pattern:
In advance of their starts Tuesday and Wednesday at Fenway Park, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka flew back to Boston before Sunday night's game.
Matsuzaka is scheduled to throw a side session on Monday, which is why the club opted for him not to stay with the team and get home in the wee hours of the morning. Beckett will start the home opener for the second year in a row. Last year, he beat the Blue Jays.
Francona noted how eager the Red Sox are to get back to Boston after six weeks in Florida, followed by a weekend in Philadelphia and a six-day road trip through Kansas City and Texas.
"Sleeping in your own bed, for me, it's been two months," Francona said. "That's a long time. It will be nice to get home. I don't mind opening up on the road though. Because once you get it out of the way, it helps. Just get through that first trip and then you're ready to go."
The Red Sox open their 81-game Fenway slate against the Mariners on Tuesday at 2:05 p.m. ET. The Mariners pitching staff is in a state of flux after being snowed out three straight days in Cleveland. The Mariners, weather-permitting, will play a doubleheader against the Indians on Monday. If they are again postponed, the Red Sox are likely to see Mariners ace Felix Hernandez either Tuesday or Wednesday.