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SEA@CLE: McCallister gives up six hits over 7 1/3

When Indians manager Terry Francona returns to Fenway Park on Thursday and makes himself at home in the tiny office of the visitors' locker room for the first time, will he be preparing to get booed or cheered?

"I'm sure I'll have a lot of emotions," he said.

Said current Red Sox manager John Farrell, "I would fully expect he'd get a great welcome and a great ovation, and deservedly so. Look, it was eight incredible years that he spent here and we're looking forward to playing against him. They're playing exceptionally well, playing with a lot of confidence. He has a lot to do with that. They've got a very good team."

After managing the Red Sox from 2004-11, winning two World Series ('04 and '07) and going 744-552, Francona returns at the helm of the Indians, where he's helped turn around a team that won just 68 games last season.

While the Indians increased their payroll from $65 million to about $80 million, according to Cots Baseball Contracts, Francona could be at least partially credited for improving the 22nd-ranked offense and 29th-ranked pitching staff to fifth and 16th in the Majors as of Wednesday, respectively.

"They've pitched very consistently," Farrell said of the Indians.

Francona last came to Fenway as a member of the ESPN broadcasting crew in 2012.

"It was weird watching him on ESPN at the beginning until you get used to it," David Ortiz said. "So now you watch him on the other side and it will feel weird for a couple of series. At some point, it will be pretty normal.

"I was with Tito for eight years. He's a good dude. He did a lot of good things. I learned a lot of things from him. It's going to be a little weird just watching him from the other side. It is what it is, right?"

Francona, though, has never been one to enjoy the spotlight.

"This game is tough enough to play and I don't want our guys having extra baggage during that series," he said. "I need to be very cognizant of that, that whatever feelings I'm having, I'll deal with them. Like I said, it's hard enough to play this game."

For Cleveland, Thursday's starter is the 25-year-old McAllister, perhaps the biggest surprise on the Indians staff this season after lowering his walk and home run totals from last year, compiling a 2.65 ERA over eight starts.

With a new splitter in his repertoire, he's been able to rely less heavily on his changeup to keep hitters off balance.

He held the Red Sox to three runs over five innings in an April start.

Ryan Dempster takes the mound for the Sox, having shown inconsistency over his last two starts. Dempster is still on pace for a career high in strikeouts, with 63 over 52 2/3 innings.

Red Sox: Victorino still hurt
Shane Victorino isn't happy about it, but his injury woes have continued to keep him out of the Red Sox lineup.

Now dealing with left hamstring tightness, Victorino hasn't played since Monday, though it looks like he may avoid a trip to the DL.

"He's improved today," Farrell said Wednesday. "He's going to do some running on the treadmill. There's increased looseness in the hamstring."

Indians: A familiar Fenway face in Swisher
Despite being in pinstripes, Nick Swisher has always enjoyed playing at Fenway Park.

Or at least his bat has.

Swisher's .289 average is his second-best among MLB parks in which he's registered at least 30 at-bats, while he's hit eight balls beyond the Fenway walls in 50 games.

He'll rejoin the team Friday.

Worth noting
• The Red Sox will have a full battery at Double-A Portland for Thursday's 11 a.m. ET game, when David Ross catches left-hander Franklin Morales in a pair of rehab appearances. Ross could be activated from the concussion disabled list on Friday.

• Brett Myers, on the 15-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation, made a rehab appearance with Double-A Akron and went 4 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs.

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