Marco Scutaro starts rehab

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox infielder Marco Scutaro, who has been on the disabled list since May 8 with a strained left oblique muscle, has joined Pawtucket on a rehab assignment for three games in Durham, N.C.

Manager Terry Francona said he will play a game at shortstop, a game at second and be the designated hitter for one game, and if all goes well Scutaro will rejoin the club prior to the series with the New York Yankees, which begins Tuesday night in New York.

Scutaro was batting .235 in 22 games (18 starts) at the time he was hurt, and had lost the starting shortstop job to Jed Lowrie. With plans to have him play second for Pawtucket, clearly the Red Sox intend to keep things the same.

Lowrie, who got off to a great start, batting .400 as late as April 28, has cooled since then. In the 20 games since Scutaro went on the DL, Lowrie is batting .260 with no home runs. But since becoming an everyday player, he has gone hitless in back-to-back games just once. That happened last week in Cleveland, prompting Francona to give him a day off. Since then, he has hit safely in his last five games, batting .333 (6 for 18). That includes the RBI single he had in Friday night's 8-6 win over the Oakland Athletics.

Lowrie is hitting nearly 200 percentage points higher against left-handers (25 for 58, .431) than right-handers (26 for 110, .236), but Francona said he has always been a better hitter from the right side.

"Offensively he's not a worry,'' Francona said. "(But) I don't think he's going to hit .400."

The manager said he also has few concerns about Lowrie's durability, despite his injury issues in the past.

"I think he's dying to show he can do this,'' Francona said.

Francona also has decisions to make regarding pitcher Clay Buchholz, who expressed sufficient concern about his back after Friday's start. The Red Sox are thinking about giving him a couple of days' extra rest, Francona said, which would knock him out of his scheduled start Wednesday in New York.

Francona said that Buchholz, whose previous start had been cut short after five innings because of back stiffness, told the club he didn't feel pain Friday, but it "was on his mind" whether it was going to hurt.

"We're going to sit down with him and talk about the best way to go forward,'' Francona said.

Tim Wakefield will throw a bullpen Saturday in case he is needed to start against the Yankees on Wednesday.

Gordon Edes covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.