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Notes: Ortiz gets a break in opener

Notes: Ortiz gets a break in opener

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BOSTON -- Julio Lugo couldn't resist doing a little chirping when he saw his friend David Ortiz holding court with the media.

"We've got a real DH tonight," said Lugo. "We need some power out of the DH spot."

In one of the more unique Boston lineups of the season, leadoff man Lugo served as the DH, Dustin Pedroia batted third, Bobby Kielty was in the five-hole and, yes, Ortiz was on the bench.

Though manager Terry Francona had been plotting this maintenance day of rest for his slugger for some time, it wound up coming at the perfect time.

Aside from the fact Ortiz is 5-for-34 lifetime against Devil Rays starter Scott Kazmir, the rest was also beneficial in that Ortiz's right knee -- a trouble spot all season -- has been barking lately.

"Man, my knee has been hurting again," said Ortiz. "I don't know, I guess a day off is never bad. I was missing a lot of pitches yesterday. Get a day off for a guy that's kind of owned you ... that's not bad."

Right after the All-Star break, Ortiz confided in reporters that he had been playing with a torn right meniscus since June of 2006. The knee had stopped nagging him for a while. But lately, Ortiz has been feeling it to the point where he did not hedge Monday when asked if he would have surgery this winter.

"I will," Ortiz said. "I definitely have to, otherwise I'll be going through this next year again and I don't feel like it. [Otherwise], it might get worse. I'm not going to get younger."

Ortiz expressed no concern about being able to get through the rest of the season. He will manage it like he has all year.

"That's why I've been trying not to force it too much," said Ortiz. "I try to run when I have to, but I don't really have to. I just try to slow down because every time I put pressure on it, it's bothering me."

Interestingly, Ortiz doesn't seem that interested in getting substantial rest before the postseason if the Red Sox can clinch the American League East title early.

"You know what, I don't really like to be out of the lineup," said Ortiz. "It makes me feel like I lose my rhythm for a second. We've been just playing so much that I don't think one day off will affect anybody. Pretty much everyone is getting one. I'll be fine."

Ortiz pinch-hit leading off the ninth inning and grounded out in Boston's 1-0 loss on Monday.

Manny getting closer: Though Manny Ramirez missed his 13th game in a row with a strained left oblique, Monday was a significant day. Ramirez resumed swinging the bat, which is a most positive development.

However, he is probably still at least a few days away from playing.

"He took 15 swings, two rounds off the tee, dry swings," said Francona. "He's still a little tender to the touch, but he's able to do the work. He'll continue to be examined by the medical staff and we need to have that soreness out of there before you can turn him loose with all that torque that swinging involves as you let him loose. Controlled is one thing, but even in BP or a game is still another. We're not quite there yet."

The Red Sox are 7-6 during Ramirez's absence.

"However long Manny has been out, you haven't heard, 'Oh, woe is us.' We still miss Manny," said Francona. "[But] because of some depth and guys like [Jacoby] Ellsbury, the way they're playing, it lessens the blow."

Gagne back in the mix: The Red Sox had setup man Eric Gagne back in the bullpen Monday night, as the right-hander is over the tenderness in his shoulder that had kept him out since Aug. 26.

Francona wasn't sure exactly how he would be deployed Monday.

"Under what circumstances or what's correct, that may take a conversation between [pitching coach] John [Farrell] and I," said Francona. "I would hope he'd show up today and feel great and we can start getting him in games. That would be good."

Dice-K on target: Despite Daisuke Matsuzaka's recent struggles, Francona had no thought to pushing the right-hander back in the rotation or skipping his turn altogether. Because the Red Sox are off on Thursday, Matsuzaka will have one extra day of rest when he takes the ball Friday night against the Yankees.

Matsuzaka is 1-4 with a 9.57 ERA in his last five starts.

"He will work on some stuff on the side," said Francona. "That's tomorrow. Like we normally do, we'll try to obviously spend some time and bear down on how we can help and not be a hindrance, but be more of a help. We've certainly talked about that a lot."

On deck: Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (16-10, 4.39 ERA) takes the ball on Tuesday night against right-hander Andy Sonnastine (5-9, 5.73). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. 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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