Saltalamacchia gets deserved day off

BOSTON -- The Red Sox played their 100th game Sunday night, an 11-inning affair that came on the heels of a heat wave and on the front end of a challenging portion of the schedule. There was a recent four-day break for the All-Star Game and its related festivities, but handling the bumps and bruises is a full-time endeavor at this stage of the season.

Manager John Farrell took steps to spell a couple of regulars Monday, sitting shortstop Stephen Drew and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia against standout Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Matt Moore.

Drew recently returned from the disabled list and may still be getting his legs under him, and Saltalamacchia caught all three games over the weekend against the New York Yankees, including a pair of scorchers Friday and Saturday and the extra-inning contest Sunday.

Ryan Lavarnway starts behind the plate against Moore.

“First two games back from the break he was in some pretty hot conditions,” Farrell said of Saltalamacchia. “He tolerated it well, or as well as one can expect. Tonight’s just a down day for him.”

Saltalamacchia’s workload at this point of the season is about where it was at this point in 2012.

However, in large part due to the concussion that has sidelined David Ross, Saltalamacchia has seen increased action against left-handed starters. He had just 53 at-bats against lefties all last year, but already has 66 this season.

Farrell is pleased that Saltalamacchia's production has not taken a complete nosedive despite the altered use.

“With 62 games left to go, he may have caught a few more games against left-handers, such as last night,” Farrell said. “And actually he’s swung the bat better right-handed than he has in recent years and he’s done a nice job of handling our staff. He’s durable and he wants to play as much as possible.”

Saltalamacchia has increased his average against lefties from .170 in 2012 to .212 this year. His OPS has jumped from .494 to .619, still low but at least approaching respectable.

Farrell expects Drew to return to the lineup Tuesday against Rays right-hander Roberto Hernandez. Saltalamacchia probably will be in there again as well. The skipper indicated that others will get breaks this week, naming Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli as candidates for a rest.

In other clubhouse news:

* Ross is expected to rejoin the team later in the week after flying to Boston for an examination Wednesday. The veteran backup has been taking part in baseball activities. There is no timetable for his return, but his presence will be a boost.

“It’ll be good to get him back in our clubhouse,” Farrell said of Ross, who had a stint on the seven-day concussion list twice earlier in the year and later was transferred to the 60-day DL and sent home to Florida to recuperate.

* Jon Lester will start Tuesday against Tampa Bay after being pushed back following the All-Star break to obtain some extra rest. Farrell cited the late date of the All-Star Game as one reason to shuffle things around.

“He’s made two more starts [in the first half compared to last year] because of how long the first half was,” Farrell said. “Because there were two more starts than years past, we felt like this could be a good break for him. In the end it’s two extra days, it’s not like he’s not capable of pitching.

“It’s going to be beneficial from the sheer physical standpoint. It’s still going to come down to executing pitches in the game.”

* One pitcher who has executed pitches in his limited time with the team is rookie Drake Britton, who pitched Saturday and Sunday. It was the first time that Britton had appeared on consecutive days as a professional. The left-hander tossed one scoreless inning in each outing.

“He’s come in in some pretty tight spots in his first two appearances in the big leagues. Where he was in spring training, there’s much more consistent command, he’s downhill better,” Farrell said. “Having a third left-hander is a bit of luxury, especially in our division where there’s so many good left-handed hitters.”

Britton made headlines during spring training when he was arrested on DUI charges after allegedly driving 111 mph near the team’s complex in Fort Myers, Fla. While there are legal issues to work out, Britton seemingly has been able to learn from his mistake and recommit himself.

“I’m sure he’s humbled by it. He’s regretful,” Farrell said. “He certainly has shown a lot of remorse given the situation.”