Beckett likely to return Friday vs. Rays

Beckett likely to return Friday vs. Rays

Beckett likely to return Friday vs. Rays
BOSTON -- The Red Sox know who they expect to pitch on Friday, but things are still hazy for Thursday.

Going into Tuesday's 18-6 win over the Blue Jays, Boston's rotation wasn't set beyond Wednesday, but manager Terry Francona said after Tuesday's game that Josh Beckett is likely to return from a right ankle sprain to pitch on Friday -- the second game of four in a big series against the Rays at Fenway Park.

"I think he's going to pitch Friday. That's not exactly set in stone, but I think that's where we're leaning," Francona said. "He's going to come out tomorrow, cover first, those types of things. Have a full workout, and I think Friday's looking good."

Beckett had a planned Tuesday visit with Dr. George Theodore at Fenway Park that was "not any big powwow or anything," Francona said. The Sox were deciding on whether to start Beckett Thursday or Friday, but going forward, if there's a setback on Wednesday, it would be hard to see Beckett's start being moved up to Thursday as a result.

Beckett felt strong Monday after a side session at Fenway Park. He sprained the ankle in his last start on Sept. 5.

"He feels really good," said Francona, who did not watch the session but got a report from pitching coach Curt Young. "[Beckett] said he could have pitched yesterday, which is good news. We've got to come up with a starter Thursday or Friday. I said, 'Whatever is in your best interest. If you think the extra day helps you even more, we'll push you back.' That's where we're at."

Kyle Weiland could get the nod in Thursday's opener vs. Tampa Bay, as could Alfredo Aceves. Weiland threw a side session on Tuesday, and a Thursday start would come on a standard four days' rest, but the Sox have enough hands on deck that they could go with a patchwork start, too, if they needed.

"Kyle is throwing a side today, so he is certainly available to do that," Francona said. "We honestly don't know."

If the Sox started Aceves and he went four or five innings, "we can cover it, because we have a lot of bodies here now," said Francona. "We're still trying to figure out what to do going forward.

"Some of this is going to have to do with how [Erik] Bedard's doing. He's certainly not going to [start] Thursday or Friday, but some of this is going to fall into place. There's not really a rush to have to make a decision right now."

Bedard, bothered by his left lat and left knee, had a light catch on Tuesday. The southpaw could get a start on Monday, when the Sox play a doubleheader with the O's at Fenway.

As for Clay Buchholz, he also played catch on Tuesday and is in line to pitch off the mound later this week.

"We'll see how he bounces back," Francona said. "When he gets to this effort level, we want to see how he bounces back, and so we kind of reserve that right. But he's getting himself towards the bullpen, for sure."

Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.