The most important development for the Boston Red Sox tonight could come before the second game of the series against the Orioles at Memorial Stadium.
Roger Clemens, who has been sidelined for two weeks, is scheduled to throw in the bullpen before the game. His status will be updated after the workout, and if the righthander is deemed fit, he is likely to start against the Yankees in New York Friday night.
Even if he passes tonight's test, Clemens (20-6, 1.98) would get only three more starts in the regular season. And the Red Sox would have to juggle his schedule, either by pushing him back a couple of days after his return or pitching him on three days rest, to have the righthander available for the series against Toronto the weekend after next.
Of course, the Red Sox's most immediate concern is maintaining their one-game lead over the Blue Jays. Continuing their mastery over the Orioles is one way to assure that.
The Red Sox have won the season series from the Orioles seven straight years, and own a 9-2 advantage this season, games remaining tonight (7:35, HTS) and tomorrow night. If the Orioles lose either one of the next two to Boston it would mark the 14th consecutive series they've lost to an Eastern Division team since winning two of three from New York June 8-10.
After last night's 7-3 win, the Red Sox announced a pitching change for tomorrow night's series finale. Greg Harris (13-7, 3.55) will start in place of Joe Hesketh (0-3, 2.74). Lefthander Tom Bolton (9-3, 3.29) gets the call tonight.
Jose Mesa (1-2, 5.04) will be the second of three rookie pitchers to face the Red Sox in tonight's game, with Anthony Telford (2-2, 3.16) pitching tomorrow night.