Notes: Timlin shut down for one week
Francona hoping time off will fully heal closer candidate
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Mike Timlin's quest to be the closer grinded to a halt on Wednesday when he experienced soreness in his oblique muscle again after pitching batting practice.
"We're going to shut him down for a week," said Terry Francona. "It's in a smaller area than before, but he still feels it. ... But we don't want this to turn into a season-long fiasco where he feels OK one week, then the next week, he feels a little worse."
Timlin had an MRI taken on Thursday, which revealed a strain. The 6-foot-4 right-hander was scheduled to pitch against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla., for the first time this spring on Saturday, which coincidentally is the day he turns 41 years old.
The Red Sox thought Timlin had recovered enough from the strained oblique muscle he aggravated during a practice session on Feb. 25 in Ft. Myers, Fla. But even though the recent occurrence isn't as bad, Francona said it would be better to stop him from pitching now instead of the situation getting worse.
"We'd rather shut him down now as opposed to have something happen to him during the season where he's only throwing 85 mph," Francona said. "This way, if he recovers good enough, we'll be able to have him for six months."
Francona said Timlin won't throw in any fashion for a week and then the team will re-evaluate the pitcher.
The reliever with 139 career saves has been considered to be the front-runner for the closer role, but the setback may prove problematic.
While Francona said the situation doesn't alter Timlin's future appearances in the spring, the picture is murky and may not become clear until the last day of Spring Training.
The candidates who are battling Timlin include Joel Pineiro, Brendan Donnelly and Julian Tavarez. But the three have each struggled in their outings so far this spring. Donnelly has allowed five hits and five runs in 3 2/3 innings, Pineiro has given up seven hits and five runs (four earned) in four 1/3 innings and Tavarez has surrendered six hits and four runs (three earned) in 5 2/3 innings.
"They are obvious questions to answer and we'll have to map it out as we get closer to the start of the season," said Francona. "It's too early to give guys roles and say where they'll be pitching. We'll see how it pans out."
Hansen sighting: Craig Hansen looked rusty in his spring debut on Friday. The 23-year-old righty, who has been bothered by stiffness in his back, gave up three doubles that accounted for two runs and walked one.
"There were definitely some cobwebs out there," said Hansen, who threw 23 pitches, 13 for strikes. "But it felt great to be out there again."
After a walk to Abraham Nunez on six pitches, Hansen settled down and forced Wes Helms into an inning-ending double play.
"The good news of it is that he came through with it and his back felt fine," said Francona. "I did think some of the pitches were flat. When he got them up, they took some good swings. Health-wise, it was good. Result-wise, it wasn't that great. But we can fix that."
Despite getting roughed up a bit, Hansen was happy that he worked on his changeup and his sinker. He induced the double-play ball on a changeup.
"I'm still working on my stuff and I was able to kind of find my changeup," said Hansen, who worked on the slider before the game but didn't use it during his outing. "I worked on my mechanics in the offseason, so that's going to help my confidence."
Hansen is expected to pitch again on Monday and will possibly throw back-to-back games sometime in the next week.
Knocked out: Kason Gabbard had a rough outing in his second start of the spring. The 24-year-old left-hander used 33 pitches to get out of the first inning after allowing two hits and three runs (two earned) with two walks. Gabbard gave up a two-run homer to Helms.
The Palm Beach-native rebounded in the second with a 1-2-3 inning.
Remembering 'Vuk': Former Phillies coach John Vukovich, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 59 after a lengthy battle with cancer, was honored before the game at Brighthouse Networks Field in Clearwater, Fla., with a moment of silence. Vukovich served as Francona's third-base coach when Francona managed the Phillies from 1997-2000.
Before the game, both teams lined up along the foul lines and Phillies players Jimmy Rollins and Scott Burrell hung a Vukovich jersey on a coat rack that was stationed in the third-base coaching box. The coaching box was also painted "VUK" in memory of the former Phillie.
Francona will travel to Philadelphia on Monday with Curt Schilling for Vukovich's funeral services. The funeral will be held on Tuesday.
Schilling (1992-2000) and Timlin (2002) pitched for the Phillies while Vukovich was a coach.
Francona said that Schilling, who had been scheduled to pitch on Tuesday, will return to Ft. Myers, Fla., after the funeral and throw in a simulated game.
This and that: Six players were re-assigned from camp on Friday. Right-handers David Pauley and Edgar Martinez were optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket. Right-hander Adam Bernero, outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and infielders Luis Jimenez and Chad Spann were sent to Minor League camp. Bernero had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery on Feb. 28. ... Kevin Youklis wore a No. 87 jersey because he forgot his No. 20 uniform in Ft. Myers. ... Doug Mirabelli went 2-for-2 with a single, double and a stolen base. ... Julio Lugo led off Friday's game with a triple. ... David Ortiz hit his first homer of the year with a monstrous shot in the fifth inning off Phillies left-hander Matt White. The homer cleared the right-field berm area and nearly landed on the southbound lane of Route 19. Ortiz went 2-for-3 in the game.
Up next: Josh Beckett makes his second start of the spring when the Red Sox travel to Lakeland, Fla., for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest against the Tigers on Saturday. Beckett tossed three scoreless innings and allowed three hits in his first outing. This will be the only time in Spring Training that the Red Sox play the American League defending champions. Hideki Okajima is also scheduled to pitch.
Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.