Tavarez's job in limbo vs. Yanks

Tavarez's job in limbo vs. Yanks

Julian Tavarez may be pitching for more than just a win on Sunday against the Yankees. His spot in the rotation could be in limbo.

Coming into the game with an 8.36 ERA in three starts this season -- giving up 19 hits in 13 innings -- Taverez's start against the Yankees could be his last.

If he falters, left-hander Jon Lester could return to the big leagues. Fully recovered from lymphoma, Lester made his fourth Minor League start on Friday and is scheduled to throw his second start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday.

But Tavarez isn't worried about it. Instead, he's focused on the navy pinstripes he'll be staring down on Sunday. He's even considered the advantage that comes with pitching the day after Tim Wakefield, the right-handed knuckleballer who lost to the Yankees on Saturday.

Because the Yankees lineup concentrated on Wakefield's slow pitches on Saturday -- as Tavarez's thinking goes -- their timing may be a little off.

"It makes a lot of difference," Tavarez said. "Wakefield goes out there and challenges with a knuckleball, and I go out there and challenge with a lot of sinker fastballs."

Tavarez's approach to his start against the Yankees may be another reason manager Terry Francona has so much faith in him. Francona speaks highly of Tavarez's flexibility and willingness to pitch every fifth day or, on the flip side, every 10th day.

Yankees Coverage
Jeter's late homer lifts Yanks
Yanks gear up for lesser opponents
Chamberlain springs curve on Sox
Notes: Peace of mind for Posada

Red Sox Coverage
Schilling's gem ends with loss
Bauman: Game mirrors Classic duel
Sox don't take lead for granted
Notes: Matsuzaka pushed back
Season Series
Yankees win 10-8
• 9/16: Yankees 4, Red Sox 3
• 9/15: Red Sox 10,Yankees 1
• 9/14: Yankees 8, Red Sox 7
Previous season series
2006: Yankees 11, Red Sox 8
2005: Yankees 10, Red Sox 9
2004: Red Sox 11, Yankees 8

"He's great about that stuff," Francona said. "He'll take the ball everyday."

Despite the apparent insecurity of Tavarez's spot in the rotation, Francona said he tries to make his players feel comfortable regardless of the situation, "because there's always the potential of somebody moving [to a different role]."

Pitching coach John Farrell said Tavarez's pitching struggles are caused more by aggressiveness than mechanics.

"With Julian, it's not a matter of stuff or location," Farrell said. "What Julian is victim of is, when he gets deeper into the count on a given hitter, there are times when he tries to overthrow a bit. And as he does, he sacrifices location, and that's when he has given up some extra base hits. That's when the damage is done."

With Yankee Stadium known as a hitter's park, Tavarez's ability to induce ground balls works in his favor. Rowdy fans, however, could poise a distraction to him.

"If he feels that situation starts to evolve," Farrell said, "then he's got to be able to step back and regroup mentally, and continue to stay one pitch with his mind in the moment."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Julian Tavarez (0-2, 8.36 ERA)
This appears to be a crucial start for Tavarez. After giving up six runs to the Blue Jays in 4 2/3 innings on Tuesday, Tavarez may lose his spot in the rotation to Lester, who is set to make a Minor League start on Wednesday.

NYY: RHP Chien-Ming Wang (0-1, 5.68 ERA)
Wang is making his second start of the season because a hamstring injury kept him out for the better half of April. Against the Devil Rays -- in which he took the loss -- Wang gave up nine hits and four runs in 6 1/3 innings on Tuesday.

Player to watch
Yankees right fielder Bobby Abreu is hitting .375 lifetime against Tavarez in 24 at-bats. Six of his nine hits against the right-hander have gone for extra bases -- three homers and three doubles.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WRKO 680 AM, 950 AM (Español)

Up next
• Monday: Off-day
• Tuesday: Oakland (Joe Blanton, 2-1, 3.55) at Boston (Curt Schilling, 3-1, 3.27), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Wednesday: Oakland (Chad Gaudin, 1-1, 2.54) at Boston (Josh Beckett, 5-0, 2.48), 7:05 p.m. ET

Caleb Breakey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.