TOKYO (AP) -The 18-hour plane flight that brought the Boston Red Sox to Tokyo claimed one victim when Sean Casey developed a stiff neck that is expected to keep him out of the first two games of the season against the Oakland Athletics.
Manager Terry Francona said Monday the backup first baseman has ``Southern League neck,'' a reference to an ailment that develops on long bus rides in the minor leagues.
Francona also said rookie center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, effective as the leadoff hitter in last year's World Series, probably will bat toward the bottom of the order in the opener on Tuesday night.
``You put a young player a little bit at risk when you put him right at the top of the lineup early on,'' Francona said. ``I know what he hit last year. It was impressive, but you're still trying to develop guys.''
Ellsbury batted .353 in 33 regular-season games and .438 in the World Series sweep of Colorado.
``The coolest thing is just starting over here in Japan,'' Ellsbury said. ``I'm not looking at it as different than the World Series, just go out there and perform.''
The Red Sox brought 30 players (plus Curt Schilling, who is on the 60-day disabled list) to Tokyo and must get down to 28, three to be designated inactive, before Tuesday's game. Two others, non-roster invitees Bobby Kielty and Jed Lowrie, are expected to be left off the 25-man roster for the games.
Ace Josh Beckett, who stayed behind at Boston's spring training camp with a back injury, is expected to go on the disabled list retroactive to March 19 and be eligible to be activated on April 3, the day before a three-game series in Toronto.
The likely inactives for the two games against Oakland are Tim Wakefield, who pitched in an exhibition game Sunday night against the Yomiuri Giants, reliever Mike Timlin, recovering from a cut finger, and Casey.
The Red Sox plan to re-evaluate Timlin's status when they get to Los Angeles where they have three exhibition games starting Friday against the Dodgers.
Coco Crisp, the incumbent center fielder challenged by Ellsbury, figures to be on the 25-man roster despite missing most of spring training with a groin injury. Now that he's healthy, the team may be in a better position to decide whether to trade him.
``We're taking it day to day,'' Crisp said. ``I feel fine so we'll see how it all plays out.''

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