Red Sox-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

Although Boston manager Bobby Valentine appears to have found a remedy for his battered bullpen, he maintains it's not a long-term solution.

The Red Sox look to build on their first victory in a week and hand the Minnesota Twins a fourth straight defeat Tuesday night at Target Field.

With Daniel Bard's outing Sunday canceled because of a rainout, Valentine decided to move that day's scheduled starter into a relief role for Monday's opener in Minnesota to shore up a beleaguered bullpen. Boston's bullpen was responsible for all 15 runs in Saturday's embarrassing six-run loss to the New York Yankees, and the relief corps' 8.06 ERA is the worst in the majors.

Moving Bard to the bullpen seemed to be a good move, as the temporary reliever got two critical outs in the eighth inning of Monday's 6-5 victory.

Cody Ross powered the offense, tying the score with a two-run homer in the seventh inning and putting the Red Sox (5-10) ahead with a two-out, solo shot in the ninth to help Boston snap a five-game losing streak.

"It's been a tough go,'' said Ross, who leads the team with five homers and 13 RBIs. "Everybody knows how tough it's been on us, but nobody feels sorry for us. We're going to keep having to go out there and grind it out.''

There have been calls for the highly criticized Valentine to permanently move Bard into the bullpen to replace struggling closer Alfredo Aceves, who did end up nailing down the save Monday after getting shelled Saturday. But the skipper has insisted Bard is still on track to make his next start Friday.

There's no question about the role of Josh Beckett (1-2, 5.03 ERA), who is slated to take the ball Tuesday.

Beckett allowed three runs and seven hits in seven innings of Wednesday's 6-3 loss to Texas. The right-hander struck out seven, walked one and retired the final 12 batters he faced.

Beckett, who has never pitched at Target Field, has been hit-or-miss in his five career starts against the Twins, posting an 8.18 ERA in two games but a 0.41 ERA in the other three. In his lone outing against them last season, the three-time All-Star allowed six hits in seven scoreless innings of a 2-1, 11-inning win May 9.

Minnesota (5-12) counters with Nick Blackburn (0-1, 5.56), who is set to return to the rotation against one of his favorite opponents.

Blackburn was removed with one out in the sixth inning against Texas on April 14 because he felt a cramp in the back of his right shoulder. An MRI revealed no damage, but the Twins decided to give extra rest to the right-hander, who missed the final six weeks of last season with a right forearm injury.

Blackburn allowed two runs and seven hits against the Rangers before Minnesota's bullpen struggled in a 6-2 loss. He has now made 10 starts since picking up his last win against the Chicago White Sox on July 8.

He didn't get a decision in either of his two starts against the Red Sox last season, but certainly pitched well enough to win with a 0.69 ERA. He is 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA in his last four starts versus Boston.

Kelly Shoppach, who has been behind the plate for Beckett's last two starts, is 8 for 16 with three homers off Blackburn.

Blackburn's batterymate, meanwhile, has fared well lately against the Red Sox. Joe Mauer is batting .429 in his last four games in the series and is 3 for 8 with two doubles lifetime against Beckett.

The Twins have lost eight of the last 10 meetings with Boston.

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