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Francona upbeat about Ortiz, Lowell

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona is upbeat about the health of David Ortiz and Mike Lowell, saying neither is "a question mark" heading into spring training.

Designated hitter Ortiz went on the disabled list twice with wrist problems last season while third baseman Lowell played with a hip injury before having surgery on Oct. 20.


If both recover their hitting production, their power would be a boost without Manny Ramirez for the first time in nine spring trainings after he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers last July.

"I don't think David's a question mark. I think that he's healthy and in good shape," Francona said Wednesday. "I don't think Mikey Lowell's a question mark. ... We're trying to get him ready for opening day. So I don't view those guys as question marks. I just think we have to use common sense."

Ortiz hit 23 homers with 89 RBIs and a .264 batting average, all lows for his six seasons with Boston. Lowell had 17 homers with 73 RBIs and a .274 average, all lows for his three seasons with the Red Sox.

Right-hander Josh Beckett seems fine after fighting through a strained side muscle in last year's playoffs. He threw in the bullpen Wednesday.

"He's in very good shape," pitching coach John Farrell said. "He's probably more in line with where he was in '07 rather than the start of '08 ... in part because he had a couple of extra weeks to rest and recover" with Boston missing the World Series.

Four members of the starting rotation -- Beckett, Jon Lester, Brad Penny and Tim Wakefield -- came to camp before Thursday's reporting date for pitchers and catchers. Daisuke Matsuzaka will join them after pitching next month for Japan in the World Baseball Classic.

"The team that gets down to Florida first doesn't necessarily win," Francona said, but "it's good. Guys are smart enough to know that it's good for them."

The only starting spot that may be up for grabs is shortstop with Julio Lugo and Jed Lowrie, who took over last season when Lugo was hurt. Francona said he didn't want to discuss that publicly before talking to them.

Position players are due in camp by Monday with the first full squad workout two days later.