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Notes: Drew returns to lineup

Notes: Drew returns to lineup

ARLINGTON -- J.D. Drew returned to the No. 5 spot in manager Terry Francona's batting order Friday, hopeful that two days out of the batter's box had sufficiently cleared the right fielder's mind and ended his worst hitting slump of the season.

"You just have to take it one day at a time," said Drew, who entered Friday hitless in his last 10 at-bats and 3-for-22 (.136) in his last six games. "I can't give you some magic statement about what's going on in my head. You don't always know what starts hitting streaks or slumps. It's just a matter of refocusing and regrouping.

"I'm just in a situation where I'm not finding a lot of hits and I'm trying to work my way through it."

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Drew has been slumping for nearly four weeks. With only 14 hits in Drew's last 87 at-bats (.161), his batting average has fallen from .375 to a season-low .237 over the past 25 games. Francona left Drew out of the lineup Wednesday against the Yankees, and the Red Sox were off Thursday.

"It was nice to have a day off to kind of catch your breath, and then another day not to think about anything," Drew said. "You try not to overdo it, but you do a little bit of everything to try and figure your way out of it."

Drew also has endured a power outage, going 23 games and 81 at-bats without a home run. Perhaps a return to Rangers Ballpark will help, since Drew was 5-for-13 here in Boston's three-game visit April 6-8.

"I've just got to not hit it where the guy is standing or not swing at this nasty pitch he threw," Drew said. "It's that simple."

No helping hand: Francona spent 2003 on the Oakland Athletics' coaching staff along with Ron Washington, the first-year manager of the struggling Rangers. But Francona had no advice for Texas' rookie skipper, because, "frankly, I want to beat them this weekend."

Francona did say he considers Washington a "terrific" baseball man and a close friend whom he hopes will succeed -- after this weekend, that is.

"My best advice is to win," Francona said. "I know they're trying."

Francona recalled similar struggles during his first season managing the Philadelphia Phillies. Wracked by self-doubt, he finally asked rival Atlanta manager Bobby Cox for advice.

"He asked me, 'What's the difference between you and me this series?'" Francona recalled. "He said, 'The answer is I haven't been on the field yet. But you're having to make so many trips to the mound you're going to need knee surgery.'

"In a way, he was telling me it wasn't my fault. But he was also telling the blunt truth that if you don't have enough pitching, you've got no chance."

Dice rolling: Daisuke Matsuzaka went into his scheduled start Friday having issued no walks in his last two starts (17 innings), after having walked 12 in his previous three starts.

"He's comfortable now," Francona explained. "He's not forcing the issue. It's trust. He's taking the ball and throwing it where he wants to, rather than trying to aim it. That's one reason he's having a lot of success."

Lugo looming large: Julio Lugo entered this series with only three hits in his last 31 at-bats, a slump that has sent his batting average spiraling from .265 to .236. But the shortstop, who came to Boston this offseason after Alex Gonzalez left via free agency, leads all Major League leadoff hitters with 27 RBIs and the Sox are 15-4 when he scores at least one run.

"He's given us a legitimate stolen base threat (12 for 12) and a lot of RBIs," Francona said. "He's been a little streaky with the bat, but he's a good baserunner. I always get questions about his defense, mainly because of the guy we had last year being so good. But [Lugo] has been a good player. He's given us what we were looking for."

Briefly: Reliever Mike Timlin (shoulder tendinitis) pitched a scoreless inning during a rehab outing with Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday. In a 16-pitch outing against Syracuse, he allowed no hits and one walk. ... Left-hander Jon Lester allowed one run on three hits over five innings Thursday in his second rehab start for the PawSox. Francona said Lester might stretch out to about 85 pitches in his next start on Tuesday. ... Manny Ramirez entered this series with only three RBIs in his past six games, and ranked third on the team with 28, trailing the 37 of co-leaders Mike Lowell and David Ortiz. Ramirez was batting .364 against left-handers but only .211 against right-handers. The Rangers have three right-handers scheduled to start in the series. ... The Red Sox entered Friday having won 13 of their last 20 against Texas, including seven of their last 11 meetings in Arlington.

Up next: The Red Sox send knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (4-5, 3.14 ERA) to the mound to oppose Texas right-hander Vicente Padilla (2-6, 5.52 ERA) in the second game of this three-game series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. ET.

Ken Daley is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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