Lugo Plays Field, Ks Twice in Rehab Assignment, Will Return April 27

Evan Brunell@evanbrunellFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2009

FORT MYERS, FL - MARCH 08:  Shortstop Julio Lugo #23 of the Boston Red Sox stops a ground ball against the Tampa Bay Rays during a Grapefruit League Spring Training Game at City of Palms Park on March 8, 2009 in Fort Myers, Florida.  (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Julio Lugo began a rehab assignment Wednesday for the Pawtucket Red Sox and came away feeling better, physically, than his performance would indicate.

Lugo, who batted leadoff and played shortstop, was 0-for-3 in three official at-bats and drew a walk in an International League game won by Pawtucket, 8-7, over Rochester in 11 innings.

He handled four routine plays in the field and was credited with three assists and one out.

"I felt good... I felt a little nervous getting back out there," said Lugo, who was placed on Boston's disabled list April 4 (retroactive to March 27) after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus cartilage in his right knee. "It felt good to get back in a real game. You have better pitching here which you don't see in extended spring (training). They threw some good pitches.

"The thing here is a matter of my feeling comfortable with my knee. In the beginning, when I first started playing I had some pain when I went down (to field groundballs). I don't have a problem with that like I did in the beginning. I don't have to worry about bending any more. It's a matter of getting my leg strong again and I'll be alright."

Rochester right-hander Kevin Mulvey struck out Lugo in each at-bat.

Lugo went down swinging on a 1-2 pitch in the first inning. He fanned on three pitches in the second. And he looked at a third strike on a 3-2 pitch in the fifth.

Lugo said he would join Pawtucket on Friday when it begins a three-game series at Lehigh Valley and then join Boston in Cleveland on April 27.

"That's the plan and I can't wait," he said. "It's been a long time since I've played up there. It's going to be a thrill for me to go back."

The PawSox' victory bordered on incredulous because they trailed 7-2 in the bottom of the ninth.

Sean Danielson's sacrifice fly plated one run and then Johnathan Van Every (who's also with Pawtucket on a rehab assignment), belted a two-out, grand-slam home run (on a 3-2 pitch) off Armando Gabino to tie it and force extra innings.

Pawtucket won it in the bottom of the 11th when Chip Ambres drew a two-out, bases-loaded walk (also on a 3-2 pitch) by Mike Gosling.

Other than Lugo's play and Van Every's clutch homer, two other bright spots for Pawtucket were the performances of Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard.

Buchholz, who's still on a strict pitch count, allowed two runs on three hits and two walks over five innings and threw 49 of 65 pitches for strikes.

"I had to get warm every inning before I went out (to the mound)," said Buchholz. "I felt good about my breaking ball. As I told R.J. (PawSox manager Ron Johnson), it's easier whenever you're throwing breaking balls for strikes to mess around with other pitches instead of having to throw fastballs because it's the only pitch I can get over the plate.

"It definitely was a step in the right direction for me."

Without question, Bard took another step in the right direction.

He only pitched the ninth but fanned the top three Rochester batters on nine pitches.

"That's exactly what we told him to do ... throw nine pitches and get us back in here," quipped Johnson.