Ortiz sits as Varitek returns to lineup

Ortiz sits as Varitek returns to lineup

ST. PETERSBURG -- Saturday night's lineup was a bag of mixed emotions for the Red Sox. Jason Varitek was making his first start in nearly a week after fighting the flu, but missing was Sean Casey, now on the 15-day disabled list, and slugger David Ortiz.

Ortiz had a rough outing on Friday night, going 0-for-6, including a ground ball in the top of the 11th that turned into an inning-ending double play. The designated hitter slid face-first into first base in an attempt to reach safely and bruised his right knee on the play. Had Ortiz been called safe, Varitek -- who was on third -- would have scored and put the Sox on top.

"I don't know if he banged it on the base or banged it on the ground," manager Terry Francona said. "But you could see he wanted it so bad. ... I'm glad he wanted to get to first that bad. It was a big run, [and] he wanted to get there."

The skipper had a feeling that Ortiz had gotten banged up on the play but was hoping after the knee was iced that he would be able to play through it. The situation on Saturday morning confirmed otherwise, and Ortiz was a late scratch prior to the game.

"He does [feel the bruise], so we will give him a chance to just get a little swelling out of it," Francona said.

Though Ortiz has been slumping at the plate, he might have had a chance to break out. The slugger is a career 4-for-9 against Saturday starter Edwin Jackson and 4-for-11 against Rays right-hander James Shields, who is slated to take the mound for Sunday's series finale.

Fortunately, there was some good news for the Sox, particularly with Varitek in the seven-hole. Though ill, the captain was forced into the game on Friday night when the Sox pinch-ran for backup backstop Kevin Cash and had to draw from a depleted bench.

Varitek was hit by a pitch in his lone at-bat, in the top of the 11th, and had a chance to be the go-ahead run, but Ortiz grounded into the double play to squelch the threat. Varitek also spent two innings behind the plate.

"We wouldn't have put him in there if he wasn't OK," Francona said. "He's all right. I don't think he probably feels the best he's ever felt, but he's OK."

Varitek echoed the sentiment, and although he has a lingering cough, he seems in good spirits.

The Sox breathed another sigh of relief when Mike Timlin was pronounced healthy as well. The veteran reliever experienced some tightness in his lower back prior to Friday night's game, but he toughed it out and threw the game's final two-thirds of an inning.

"No ill effects from last night," Francona confirmed. "That was kind of a weird one. You don't see that happen too often."

Francona said that Timlin had some work done on his back prior to Saturday's game and that no further problems are expected.

There was also positive news from Boston, as Daisuke Matsuzaka threw a successful side session on Friday of around 50 pitches. Francona is unsure whether Dice-K will make his scheduled start on Tuesday or switch places with lefty Jon Lester.

"We're still trying to sift that out," Francona said. "We try to tell guys in advance so they know, and I think they appreciate it, but when guys are sick, we just don't know how fast they are going to feel better. So we are just going to play it by ear for the next day."

Matsuzaka has been battling the flu all week and was left behind in Boston to recuperate. He is expected to be in the rotation for the three-game home series vs. Toronto that starts on Tuesday.

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