When he got a text message Wednesday morning from Mike Lowell saying he had some intestinal issues, Francona didn't hesitate in keeping his third baseman out of Wednesday's lineup in the finale with Tampa Bay.
"He texted me earlier this morning to kind of say, 'Hey, this is what's going on.' You know Mike, he wants to try and get in there, but that to me makes no sense," Francona said. "I know he's a great player, but we have a day off [Thursday]. He plays today and then goes back [sick] three days, that doesn't make a lot of sense, so let him come [to the park], let the trainers work on him."
On a day when New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was under the glare of the national media for surveillance techniques, Francona showed support for his football counterpart by using one of Belichick's classic expressions to describe Lowell's condition.
"He's sick," Francona said. "He doesn't know if it was something he ate, but he's got activity from both ends. It is what it is."
Kidding aside, Francona is trying to make sure that the club's leading RBI producer is available for this weekend's series with the Yankees.
"He gets an IV or whatever they deem appropriate, let him get it out of his system so he can be OK on Friday," added the skipper. "We're just trying to figure that out. You do worry when that happens because it never fails [to go] through the whole team."
Back in the swing: Manny Ramirez (left oblique) cleared another hurdle on the road to returning to action when he took batting practice before Wednesday's game for the first time since suffering the injury on Aug. 28 at Yankee Stadium. Several of his swings resulted in line drives to the bleachers in center.
"[On Tuesday] he ended up taking his swings, some dry swings, some flips, one round, and again, it's still controlled," said a cautious Francona. "Until he is pain-free and doesn't have that point-tenderness, they have to keep everything he does under a controlled basis. That's where we're at, but he continues to increase his daily activity daily."
Ramirez was seen running on the outfield warning track before batting practice Wednesday.
"He's been doing a ton [of cardio] inside," Francona said. "The running outside maybe allows [the public] to see what he's doing a little bit, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's changed. He's been doing a ton in here."
Youth movement: A right wrist injury to Jacoby Ellsbury kept the rookie out of the lineup Wednesday, but Francona had a second option ready. Brandon Moss made his third start in left field, replacing Ellsbury, who has been spelling the injured Ramirez since his callup on Sept. 1.
Left field isn't the only position Moss is working on defensively. The Sox prospect will head to winter ball this offseason to work on his skills at first base.
"[Moss] has not played there very much," Francona said. "He said he has eight games under his belt. It's not something where you just send him out there and expect him to be comfortable. Then when he does go play this winter, he's doing something for the right reasons, he's not just running around, going in the wrong direction, practicing things that don't make sense, so I think it'll make more sense."
Moss, a shortstop in high school, has already begun working with Red Sox infield instructor Luis Alicea.
"I've been going out there every day with Luis and just trying to get used to it," said Moss. "I don't think so, but I don't know. I think they're just going to let me go to winter ball, learn that and see how I do. I played eight games at [Triple-A] Pawtucket, if that counts as experience, but it's only eight games."
Precious commodity: Francona said Wednesday that even if Tuesday's game had not gotten out of hand, he was probably not inclined to call upon Clay Buchholz in relief.
"I'm fighting that right now on how and when to use him," Francona said. "We're going to try and pick spots. We've been over some of the criteria and some of the background on Clay and some of it, quite frankly, I'm not going to answer. It doesn't help us competitively to answer [that question]. So when you see him pitch, then I'll be happy to talk about it afterward."
This and that: Pawtucket manager Ron Johnson, Minor League pitching coordinator Ralph Treuel and Double-A Portland pitching coach Mike Cather are expected to join the big league staff this week. ... Registration for a random drawing for the opportunity to purchase tickets for any 2007 Red Sox postseason games that may be played at Fenway Park began at noon on Wednesday. Fans may register for the drawing online at www.redsox.com.
Coming up: Following an off-day that will include the first annual Beckett Bowl at Town Line Lanes in Malden, Mass., hosted by the Boston ace, the Red Sox resume the little matter of trying to capture their first American League East title in 12 years when they host the second-place Yankees on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET in the opener of their three-game series. Daisuke Matsuzaka (14-12, 4.44 ERA) will oppose lefty Andy Pettitte (13-8, 3.78 ERA).
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.