Notes: Lugo staying positive

Notes: Lugo staying positive

SAN DIEGO -- A couple of hours before Saturday night's game, Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo did not have the demeanor you might expect for someone who was residing south of the Mendoza line.

Lugo is an optimistic person by nature, and even one of the worst slumps of his career wasn't about to change that.

"I'm holding up good," Lugo said. "I feel good physically. I'm just going through a tough time. I'm here thinking every day thinking today's going to be the day. I'm going through a tough time, but I'm battling, I'm grinding it out and trying my best and getting my work done."

Thus far, the effort has not turned into results for the recently displaced leadoff man, who entered the night hitting .198 with four homers and 34 RBIs.

"I know I'm going to come out of it," Lugo said. "Sooner or later, I'm going to come out of it. I feel bad, because I know what I can do and things aren't working out right now. But stay positive, and go out there pitch by pitch and try my best."

Red Sox manager Terry Francona doesn't doubt, however, that the slump -- not to mention the low average that is displayed on the scoreboard for every at-bat -- weighs on his shortstop.

"I think you're not human if it doesn't," Francona said. "And again, I've said it a lot of times, because I believe it. He'll get hot. I hope it's tonight."

General manager Theo Epstein, who signed Lugo for four years at $36 million in December, remains confident that the right-handed hitter will find his stroke.

"I think he's a good player who is in one of those funks, a prolonged slump at the plate," Epstein said. "Some guys get in slumps that last two weeks, some two months. He's in a two-monther right now. I think it's still a relatively small sample size and not really indicative of his true ability.

"The guy spent 3 1/2 years in the American league East and was a really good player. I think that's comforting when you see what he's going through right now ... he's probably going to bounce back to that level of performance."

Schilling checks in: Curt Schilling was back with the team for the first time since being shut down earlier this week with tendinitis in his right shoulder. Francona and pitching coach John Farrell had a lengthy chat with Schilling on Saturday as they outlined a plan to get him back on the mound.

"Tried just to make sure that we're all on the same page where we can be of assistance," Francona said. "OK, 'You're on the disabled list; you're not pitching. How are we going to get to the point where you can go out every five days or every six days and be the guy that we need and you want to be?' That was mostly how it was."

There is no firm timetable on when Schilling will resume throwing. He is eligible to come off the disabled list on July 4.

"Now, they went in and did some baseline testing, which was good," Francona said. "Everybody kind of has an area. As far as when he throws, that will be up to the medical staff when it's in his best interest. I don't know when that is."

Schilling was unavailable for comment.

Lowell and Drew return: The Red Sox were back at full strength in their everyday lineup Saturday night, as Mike Lowell and J.D. Drew returned.

Lowell had been sidelined for the last three games with a sprained ligament in his left thumb.

"I think Mikey thought the three days off really helped him, which is perfect," Francona said. "That's what we wanted to do."

Drew, who was battling a sore right quad, was back in the No. 5 hole after hitting leadoff in his seven previous starts.

But Francona indicated that Drew will return to the leadoff spot, perhaps by Sunday.

"The point of letting him hit fifth is, we've got no DH and we've got no [Jason] Varitek," Francona said. "We'll try to keep some balance. I'm comfortable with him hitting leadoff. We just don't have enough of our lineup playing."

Bard catches on in San Diego: In the irony of ironies, Josh Bard's first start against the Red Sox since they traded him last May came with Tim Wakefield pitching for Boston.

It was Bard's understandable struggles at catching the knuckleball that led to the Sox sending him to San Diego so they could bring Doug Mirabelli back.

Before Saturday's game, as players lounged in the Padres' clubhouse, one player yelled, "Hey Bard-o, what does this guy throw?"

Bard's retort? "He throws a knuckleball every once in a while ... tough to catch."

Bard did prove able to hit the pitch, thumping an RBI double in his first at-bat.

Francona is glad that Bard has found a home in San Diego.

"He's such a good kid," Francona said. "It was a difficult situation for him. We loved him. We traded for him. He got stuck trying to catch that [knuckleball]. It was hard. He was trying to learn on the job in a place where it's hard to learn on the job. We're all thrilled for him. It was hard. He is a really good catcher. In our setup, that guy has to catch Wake. It was difficult."

On deck: In a marquee pitching matchup, Josh Beckett (10-1, 3.14 ERA) takes on Jake Peavy (9-1, 1.98) in Sunday's finale of the three-game Interleague set.

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.