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Notes: Wakefield feels ready to go

Notes: Wakefield feels ready to go

BOSTON -- When the Red Sox open their four-game series in Baltimore on Thursday night, expect knuckleballs to be floating out of Tim Wakefield's right hand again.

After missing his start on Friday against the Orioles because of a sore back, Wakefield vowed that he'd be back for his next turn in the rotation. Wakefield stood by that belief after playing catch on Monday.

The final hurdle -- thought to be a mere formality at this point -- will come on Tuesday, when Wakefield throws a side session.

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"I just wanted to make sure there was no biting anywhere, and there wasn't," Wakefield said. "I'll throw a side tomorrow and be ready to go on Thursday."

Missing even one start did not sit well with Wakefield, who takes pride in being that guy who provides stability in the rotation.

"I told some guys a couple of days ago, off the record, that I was a little embarrassed I had to miss a start," Wakefield said. "I think [the media] knows my personality; I don't like to do that. I think it was best for the team if I didn't go out there and grind through it. We had options. It was Sept. 1 the next day, and we had some options. I think it was best, not only for me, but for the team."

As it turned out, Wakefield paved the way for history. His missed start caused Julian Tavarez to move up one day, and then for Clay Buchholz to take Tavarez's regularly scheduled turn on Saturday. Of course, the result was a no-hitter for Buchholz in his second Major League start.

"I'm happy for him," said Wakefield. "[The no-hitter was] not because of me. He's good enough to be able to accomplish it."

Speaking of Buchholz, when will he pitch again?

"We have a real good idea of what we want to do next week," manager Terry Francona said. "I think before any of it unfolds, we need to see Wake come through his side day tomorrow. I don't see any reason we won't be able to say what we're going to do. I think I'd be more comfortable watching Wake get through his side day first."

Wakefield hopes to stay rolling upon his return. He has not allowed a run in his past three starts, and he entered Monday in a tie for the Major League lead in wins with 16.

Gagne getting there: Eric Gagne, who hasn't pitched since Aug. 26 and has been out of the mix in the last few days because of tenderness in his right shoulder, hopes to return in the next few days.

Gagne played catch before Monday's game.

"For a week and a half, I got on the side every day and tried to correct everything," Gagne said. "[I] just flared up the shoulder."

But Gagne, who dropped his no-trade clause on July 31 for the purpose of trying to win a World Series, is taking a long-term approach.

"We still have a long way to go," Gagne said. "We've got another two months of baseball. It's all about the playoffs. We've got a lot of bodies. We have the luxury of giving me a couple of days."

Manny itching to get back: While there's still no word on when left fielder Manny Ramirez (strained left oblique) will return to the lineup, Francona has been enthused by the slugger's work habits.

"He's in there on the elliptical," Francona said. "I think there's improvement from talking to the medical people. I think when it improves enough where he can start thinking about playing, it's going to come quick, because he's working so hard. He's doing everything, in fact, probably more. It's got to heal. But he's doing a good job. He's got his schedule, and he's done a good job."

Odds and ends: Catcher Doug Mirabelli has been away from the Red Sox for the last couple of days while tending to a serious family matter. The Red Sox are hopeful that he will catch Wakefield on Thursday. Mirabelli had been on the disabled list because of a right calf strain. ... Left-hander Craig Breslow, who was one of the September callups, was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket. The Red Sox had brought him up temporarily, because left-handed reliever Hideki Okajima had been experiencing hip woes. ... First baseman Kevin Youkilis, described by Francona as "a little haggard" during Sunday's game, got Monday night off. Eric Hinske filled in at first base. ... Prized prospect Jacoby Ellsbury made his second career start in the leadoff hole and played left field.

Coming up: In a battle of aces, the Red Sox will send Josh Beckett (16-6, 3.29 ERA) to the mound on Tuesday night against the Jays' Roy Halladay (14-6, 3.87). First pitch is slated for 7:05 ET.

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

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