BOSTON — Rookie Kyle Weiland will start for the Red Sox in the series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday followed by the return of Josh Beckett on Friday night, manager Terry Francona announced.

Weiland will be making his second straight start for Boston, both against the Rays, who enter Wednesday trailing the Red Sox by four games in the wild-card chase. The 25-year-old right-hander lasted four innings, giving up three runs in a 6-5 loss.

Francona said he went with Weiland over Andrew Miller for a handful of reasons.

"I think we felt that with the righty against them [it would be better]. He had a real good bullpen," Francona said of Weiland. "The other day down in Tampa, that was pretty tough circumstances for him. He got through his first inning. We just think he can rise to the occasion and give us a chance to win. I don't doubt that [Miller] can do the same thing."

Weiland did earn some praise for avoiding an atrocious beginning. He loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the first inning of that meeting with the Rays and had a 3-0 count on cleanup hitter Ben Zobrist. But Tampa Bay was limited to only one run, part of a workmanlike effort for the rookie.

Francona stressed that it's easy to make such a call because of the many relievers the club has on hand, just in case.

"It's not disturbing that you start a guy that can't go deep or you don't plan on going deep," he said.

That implies that Alfredo Aceves will be ready to go.

Jeremy Hellickson will start for the Rays on Thursday.

Beckett, who suffered a sprained right ankle Sept. 5 in Toronto, went through some workouts at the park on Wednesday and will be good to go for the second game of the series against James Shields. Jon Lester opposes Jeff Niemann on Saturday and Tim Wakefield will start opposite David Price in the series finale Sunday.