Josh Beckett faces Rays Friday

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona announced his starting rotation for the wild card-leading club's upcoming four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park, with Josh Beckett returning to action on Friday.

Right-hander Kyle Weiland will start Thursday, followed by Beckett, then Jon Lester on Saturday and 200-game winner Tim Wakefield on Sunday. The Rays trail the struggling Red Sox by four games for the wild card.

Beckett has been out with an ankle injury. He pitched a side session on the team's off-day Monday at Fenway Park and played long toss again Tuesday without incident.

"He feels really good," Francona said Tuesday. "In fact, he said he could have pitched yesterday, which is good news."

Francona decided to go with Weiland in the series opener instead of left-hander Andrew Miller. Weiland worked four innings and did not factor into the decision in Boston's 6-5 loss to the Rays last week. He allowed three runs on six hits with three walks and one strikeout.

"The other day in Tampa, those are pretty tough circumstances for him, away against them," Francona said. "We just think he can rise to the occasion and give us a chance to win. I don't doubt that Andrew would do the same thing."

After the series with the Rays, the Red Sox host a doubleheader versus the Orioles on Monday with John Lackey starting one of the games. Francona hasn't determined the other starter, but left-hander Erik Bedard is getting closer to returning from knee and lat injuries.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.