Lowell returns to Red Sox's lineup

Lowell returns to Red Sox's lineup

BOSTON -- With four games left to get his team ready for the postseason, Red Sox manager Terry Francona's top priority is getting his team in its healthiest state possible.

Third baseman Mike Lowell, who missed the previous three games following a shot of Synvisc and cortisone for his ailing right hip, was able to return to the mix for Thursday's game against the Indians. Meanwhile, right fielder J.D. Drew will be out for the next couple of games with some soreness in his left shoulder.

There is nothing seriously wrong with Drew, but Francona thinks it would be silly to force anything given the circumstances.

"His shoulder is a little bit sore," said Francona. "He came to me during the game last night and we were just kind of talking about it, and I actually don't even know what shoulder. It was like the fourth inning and we were getting massacred. But I told him, 'You know what, we'll give you a couple of days,' and he didn't seem like alarmed or anything but kind of along the same lines. I'd rather give him a chance to feel real good about himself."

Francona thinks that Drew will be back in the lineup Saturday.

As for Lowell, having the shot and taking the time off did exactly what he was hoping.

"I feel good," said Lowell. "I think the biggest thing is a lot of pressure is released once they take the fluid out, so that helps you feel a lot better pretty quickly. I feel like there's more range of motion. All that is a comforting feeling. I really wasn't too worried about it. It was nowhere near like the way I felt after that Phillies and Braves series [in June] where I almost felt like I needed the shot or I'd be struggling for a while."

For Wednesday's game -- the day after Boston clinched a postseason berth -- Francona rested every regular except David Ortiz and Alex Gonzalez.

But with the exception of Joey Gathright playing right field in place of Drew, Thursday's lineup was probably the same one the Red Sox will send out for Game 1 of the American League Division Series.

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