Even though A's right-hander Joe Blanton is tough on right-handed hitters, Francona opted to go with Pedroia on Tuesday. There's a strong chance that Cora will start on Wednesday night against Chad Gaudin, then Pedroia would start on Thursday against Mariners left-hander Horacio Ramirez.
Because Pedroia is a prospect on whom the Red Sox have placed a lot of value, Francona doesn't think it's appropriate to go with a straight platoon.
"We try to play Cora on days where we think he's got some history there or something," he said. "I don't know if you want to just start platooning a young kid. To me ... if he's going to hit, he's going to hit, not against certain guys. I don't think we want to do that to a young kid with 45, 50 at-bats. This kid is having a tough enough time right now. I don't want to add to it."
Francona also respects that it is tough for Cora, an established player, to spend so much time on the bench when he's playing so well.
"I think 'complicated' is a good word," said Francona. "I know I spent a lot of the day yesterday thinking about right and wrong. That's why I ended up calling Alex. If I'm thinking about this, I bet he might be, too. We want to help this kid out. Going with the hot hand is an easy thing to do. I'm not sure it's the right thing to do, 50 at-bats into this kid's Major League season. I know it's not."
Pedroia has made 20 of the season's first 25 starts at second base. Cora has started five times at second and once at short.
"If we do end up playing Cora [on Wednesday], it ends up giving Pedroia two out of three. We want to give this kid a chance to get going," said Francona. "Sometimes you play a guy just enough not to hit. I don't want to do that."
Lineup shuffle: Right fielder J.D. Drew was scratched from Tuesday's lineup roughly an hour before the game with viral symptoms. That one move created several switches in Francona's order. Coco Crisp moved from eighth to second, Kevin Youkilis went from second to fifth and Eric Hinske was inserted into Drew's spot in right field, batting eighth.
No rush on Lester: Jon Lester will make his second start at Triple-A Pawtucket on Wednesday night. Though his 30-day rehab expires later this week, that doesn't necessarily mean that he will go straight back to Fenway.
In fact, it's more than likely Lester will be optioned to Pawtucket so that he can continue to round into form.
"We can't do it ahead of time, that's just not [proper]," Francona said. "[GM] Theo [Epstein] has talked to [Lester's] agent a little bit, we've talked to Jon. I just don't think it's ready to be public yet. It's just not respectful to him. I have seen and heard some things written about Julian [Tavarez] not being in the rotation. Nobody ever asked me before. I don't think those were real correct. Take that for what it's worth."
Tavarez will take the ball on Saturday in Minnesota.
Francona emphasized how vital it is to do what is best for Lester.
"Our No. 1 responsibility is to Lester and his long-term health. You can kind of read into that what you want," he said.
Lester will throw 95 to 100 pitches on Wednesday. After that, his outings will be dictated by game circumstances.
Resting the bullpen: The success of the Boston bullpen, which has registered a 1.07 ERA over the last 17 games, is a two-part story. Not only are the relievers doing a good job, they are being set up by a starting rotation that is making quality outings a way of life.
"When you don't have to ask more of relievers than you're supposed to, it's amazing how it tends to work out," Francona said. "The shorter they're asked to pitch, the more you can protect them, also. In some cases we haven't had to protect them. When they're not asked to go multiple innings, you can have somebody behind them in case they don't have their good stuff. It really helps."
On deck: Right-hander Josh Beckett (5-0, 2.48 ERA) will try to continue his red-hot start in the finale of this two-game series on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. He'll be opposed by Gaudin, who is 1-1 with a 2.54 ERA.