"The kid needs at-bats," Francona said. "We have six games to go until we get to the All-Star break. And we're going a pitcher short. Again, I think his career will survive if we decide that he sits a few games. I think we're OK there."
Ellsbury electrified all of Fenway Park by scoring from second base on a wild pitch in Monday's game against the Rangers. At the very least, he gives Francona a top-notch pinch-runner for the rest of the week. Ellsbury started two games in left field for Pawtucket, which means Francona also might be able to use him as a defensive replacement in the corner spots should the need arise.
As for Crisp, the hope is that he continues the solid groove he worked his way into before injuring his thumb on a dive in Seattle on Wednesday.
"As long as his hand is OK, or his thumb is OK, which he says he it is, he'll be OK," Francona said. "He's worked hard to feel good about himself. That won't go away."
Drew sits, Ortiz starts: Scott Kazmir is the type of lefty that forces a manager to juggle his lineup. Francona replaced J.D. Drew with the right-handed-swinging Wily Mo Pena. However, David Ortiz, who is hitting .208 over his last 13 games, stayed in the lineup. Ortiz came in as a .192 lifetime hitter against Kazmir.
"David wanted to play real bad, which I really liked," Francona said. "Regardless of what he does, I think seeing this guy will help him. A righty can get you out, this guy can bury you. He's got the pitches to make a left-handed hitter stay on the ball, which would be really good for him."
In other lineup news, Kevin Youkilis was back at first base after missing one game with a sore left quad.
Rehabbing righties: Though Curt Schilling has started a flat-ground throwing program, the Red Sox still aren't offering a timetable on when he might get on a mound or be back on the active roster.
"We don't want to keep Schill out one day longer than he needs to be," said Francona. "We just want to do it correctly. That's really it. The doctors use the world milestone. There are milestones that he needs to attain and then you move on. As long as he's doing those milestones or he's reaching them, then he's getting where he needs to.
"That's what we will go on, not a timetable. I think you can make mistakes that way. He's done very well. This is another stage in that strengthening process. He's playing catch on flat ground. We want to continue to strengthen, and now you get the throwing incorporated in and then it will eventually stretch out and you get on the mound."
And what about Brendan Donnelly, who hasn't pitched since June 10 because of a strained right forearm?
"Nothing is new," Francona said. "He's still on the flat ground. Because of the way he throws, everything is maximum effort. He's grunting and groaning. He can't just play catch. We're trying to get him to a point where he gets stronger without going too far. And that is a fine line with him that we're trying to get to but not exceed."
Proceed with caution: Francona plans on having a lengthy talk with Josh Beckett before the ace makes his first trip to the All-Star Game next week. Beckett is a candidate to start the game.
"I'll give him a huge lecture on not trying to throw 105 [mph]," said Francona. "I remember the All-Star Game up here [at Fenway in 1999] when Schill warmed up for like an hour and a half. There was that Ted Williams salute and Schill warmed up before, during and after. He was throwing about 1,000 [mph]. And he came back and he was sore. It would be hard not to."
In fact, the Red Sox are trying to get approval from the league to send assistant trainer Mike Reinold to San Francisco so he can monitor both Beckett and Jonathan Papelbon. Reinold works with both pitchers regularly in monitoring their workout programs.
"We're not having success yet but we're not going to stop [trying]," said Francona.
Happy homecoming: First baseman Carlos Pena, who had the thrill of spending the final few weeks of 2006 with his hometown team, the Red Sox, returned to town in the midst of a terrific season for the Devil Rays.
The pride of Northeastern University and Haverhill, Mass., was excited to be back home for a few days.
"This is awesome," said Pena, who entered the night with 18 homers and 46 RBIs. "Boston just really holds a special place in my heart. I'm always going to have that for this place. This is where I started loving the game even moreso. Every time I come here, it's a treat. I'm just like a kid enjoying the game. Fenway is very special to me."
But it was in the Dominican Republic during the winter that Pena got some most helpful encouragement from a guy named David Ortiz.
"I'm having batting practice with him in the Dominican Republic and he kept on telling me, 'You can do it. You're the man, I'm telling you. You have more power than I do.' I was like, 'Whatever, David.' But I really appreciated that. To me, he's an inspiration. I look at his story and it inspires me to keep on trying and never give up. I look up to him."
Coming up: Veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield draws Wednesday's Fourth of July matinee against right-hander Edwin Jackson. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.