Notes: Peaceful day off for Pedroia
Rookie's early struggles starting to become distant memory
TORONTO -- Finally, a peaceful night off for Dustin Pedroia. Unlike the previous seven times Pedroia was supplanted by Alex Cora at second, the rookie did not carry the burden of an early-season slump.
This time, Pedroia could rest up with the knowledge he has found his stroke on this road trip, which ended with Thursday's game in Toronto.
Boston's No. 9 hitter has nine hits in his last 14 at-bats, including three doubles, a homer and four RBIs.
Of course, Cora is equally hot. The invaluable utility man went 2-for-4 in Thursday's 8-0 romp over the Jays. The Sox are 10-0 when Cora is in the starting lineup.
"He's a good player and he's seeing the ball very well, and he's using the whole field," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "His first at-bat, he took exactly what [Roy] Halladay gave him. It was a great sinker and he just stayed on it and didn't roll over and got enough to get it over third. Then he gets a fastball in and he drives it. He's been having those kind of at-bats."
And Pedroia is turning on pitches like he did throughout his years in the Minor Leagues.
"I think we're at a good point right now," said Francona. "Pedroia got himself to a point where he's a key member of our team and he's not looking over his shoulder, and I think he also realizes that AC is a good player."
As recently as 10 days ago, Francona admitted the decision of which second baseman to play on a given night was agonizing. Now, it's almost like a can't lose decision.
"It's really a pretty comfortable situation," Francona said. "[Pedroia] should be comfortable. We're proud of him. At the same time, AC's a good player. We're just trying to use all of our good players. I think, fortunately they both have some common sense about it and some confidence, so it's going to work really well. I don't really view it as a problem. We have a good setup. And Pedroia has gotten himself to the point now, where if they bring in a tough lefty in a situation, maybe he'll hit. Maybe he won't because AC is swinging [well]. But it's a good situation to be in."
Youk back at it: First baseman Kevin Youkilis, who was too sore to play Wednesday after being struck in the left leg in back-to-back games, was back in there Thursday night. In fact, Youkilis went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and two doubles.
This isn't to say Youkilis woke up feeling spry.
"He's good enough to play. His exact words were, 'I woke up feeling like I think you feel, which is not good,'" quipped Francona, who has had several knee surgeries, including a replacement. "But I think he's fine to play. Obviously we hope he doesn't get hit there again. I think he's going to be sore for a while, but he's OK."
Lester getting antsy: The Red Sox have stuck with their cautious approach on lefty Jon Lester, who shut down his rehab assignment eight days ago with cramping in his left forearm.
"Jon went out today and got out to 120 [feet]," Francona said. "He worked his way out to about 120, made about 10 or 12 throws and worked his way back in. Tomorrow will be completely on how he feels. I was kind of under the assumption that he might be off today, but it went back to how he felt and he felt great. He'll continue to do that."
When will Lester advance to a bullpen session?
"I bet you he'd get on the mound today," Francona said. "But since we shut him down for five days, we want to do it properly. I think that mistake can be made sometimes, 'OK, a guy is fine.' But then you missed out on the throwing part. We just want to do it right."
Rested closer: The Red Sox had things so well in hand during this three-game sweep in Toronto that Jonathan Papelbon never pitched.
The Red Sox continue to do everything in their power to keep Papelbon healthy for the long haul.
"He got up [Wednesday] night and threw about 15 pitches just to get a touch and feel," Francona said. "Because he took the edge off last night, I don't think we need to [pitch him Thursday]. But it's a good point. At some point, you want to rest your guys, but you want to keep them sharp."
On deck: Julian Tavarez, who was a tough-luck loser to Johan Santana in his last start, takes the ball on Friday night in the opener of a 10-game homestand. The Orioles counter with left-hander Brian Burres. First pitch is slated for 7:05 ET.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.