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Notes: Lugo gets his groove back

Notes: Lugo gets his groove back

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BOSTON -- It's as predictable as it is mystifying: struggling big leaguers getting their groove back.

A day after shortstop Julio Lugo went 3-for-4 against Kansas City, finishing a seven-day, 14-for-26 stretch that raised his average from .189 to .217, observers could only marvel at the magic of numbers.

But there's more to it than that, players say. In the trenches, slumps can bring on doubt. Crises of confidence. Mind games. Even when a veteran like Lugo can expect to regain some of the form that helped him to 1,000 hits over seven and a half seasons, he can't always see it coming.

It's a tricky formula.

"I know a lot of people say that confidence brings hits," third baseman Mike Lowell said. "I believe hits bring confidence, and then your confidence brings you more hits."

Experience plays a part. Sometimes, even, confidence is inseparable from the numbers themselves.

"You know, a lot of guys during the season say they prefer a broken-bat single to a lineout," Lowell said. "But for your confidence, you should really prefer a lineout. But no one does."

And almost always, as Kansas City reliever Zack Greinke learned when he allowed Lugo's seventh-inning single on Tuesday night, random opponents bear the unfair brunt of a streak.

"If you know that guy's hot," Greinke said, "you don't want to pitch to him."

Greinke, a soft-spoken 23-year-old who owns a loud, 97-mph heater, normally only talks in team meetings, he says, to find out "who's hot right now."

Alas, he was not aware of Lugo's recent tear when he allowed the shortstop's third hit of the night.

"If I'd known that about Lugo," Greinke said, "I might not have done much different -- I just made a bad pitch -- but I probably would've been a little more conscious of that."

Manager Terry Francona brushed off a pregame suggestion that he might consider moving Lugo back into the leadoff role. For now, Francona is confident that what he's getting from Lugo is real.

"I think if you look at the pedigree and the history of some of these guys," Francona said, "there are reasons to hang your hat on guys getting hot and producing."

Said Lowell: "He can be a major force for us in the second half."

Nunez redux: A day after Kansas City's Leo Nunez shut down the Boston bats for four innings in his first big-league start, Francona echoed what several Red Sox players had suggested the previous evening: that unfamiliarity favors pitching over hitting.

"I don't want to take anything away from what [Nunez] did," Francona said, "because that would be incorrect, besides being disrespectful. ... But you don't get a lot of looks. You look at the video and you look at the scouting reports, which we believe in. But it's just not quite the same [as facing pitchers live]."

Kason Gabbard's career night at Fenway on Monday, when the lefty hurled a complete-game shutout against the Royals, drew similar comments from Kansas City second baseman Mark Grudzielanek.

"So it's not just us," Francona said. "It happens. Unfamiliarity, I think, always helps the pitcher. That's about as far as I'd like to take it, because you always still think you have a win."

Donnelly to resume program: One day after Brendan Donnelly learned from Dr. Lewis Yokum in California that his injury remains a strained right forearm, and nothing more than originally diagnosed, the right-hander said the news was "absolutely relieving."

Donnelly aggravated the injury last week while warming up for a rehab start at Class A Lowell.

"I probably should've taken it a little bit slower, and been more sure about things," Donnelly said. "We're going to make absolute sure that everything is fine before I move forward with any intense activity."

Donnelly is nothing if not intense.

"[I've got to] let the body tell me when I'm ready," he said. "And I have to be willing to listen to that. And that's hard. For me to accept that I can't get through everything no matter what the level of pain is -- it's just not feasible."

Francona indicated that Donnelly would likely pick up a ball during the weekend. When Donnelly is comfortable again, he will resume his strengthening program.

"It might take two weeks, it might take a month," Donnelly said. "But it's going to happen, and it'll happen this year."

On deck: Daisuke Matsuzaka and the Red Sox will welcome the Chicago White Sox to Fenway Park on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET, with Javier Vazquez getting the nod for Chicago. The two teams have not faced each other this season.

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

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