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Red Sox Notes: Stephen Drew, David Ortiz near returns

04.03.13 at 8:13 pm ET

NEW YORK — The Red Sox are edging closer to having their anticipated roster, with both Stephen Drew and David Ortiz making considerable progress in their recoveries from injuries to the point that the team has approximate target dates for both players to return to the big leagues.

Drew is ahead of Ortiz in his progression, having now played in extended spring training games in Fort Myers on both Tuesday and Wednesday. After going 1-for-3 with a double in three innings on Tuesday, he had a hit in four plate appearances while playing four innings in the field. Drew has handled the initial in-game workload well, to the point where he will commence a minor league rehab assignment with Double-A Portland on Thursday.

“Once we were getting down to the last couple of days of [spring training camp], he started to turn the corner in terms of day-to-day feeling consistent without the spinning sensation that he was going through,” said manager John Farrell. “[At] the game speed he’€™s been involved with, that hasn’€™t increased any of those symptoms so he’€™s in a good place right now, all things considered.”

Drew opened the year on the seven-day disabled list for players who are sidelined by concussions. A rehab assignment with a minor league affiliate can last up to five games. The Sox currently have Drew slated to play in four rehab games before he joins the big league club (while noting that they may use the fifth game as circumstances dictate). In theory, if he’s ready to play at the conclusion of four games, he could be ready to reclaim his role as the starting shortstop of the Red Sox as soon as the home opener on April 8.

Ortiz, meanwhile, has responded well to running in the outfield at Yankee Stadium, both on Monday and Wednesday. He is slated to head to Fort Myers on Thursday, where he will start running the bases in anticipation of seeing action in extended spring training games on Monday. While it remains to be seen precisely how long it will take Ortiz to feel like his timing and swing are in a place where he’s ready to compete, once he arrives at such a point, the designated hitter will head to Triple-A Pawtucket for a rehab assignment.

Overall, however, the progress that the 37-year-old has made over the last couple of weeks is considerable, to the point where it appears that Ortiz could rejoin the team by sometime around the middle of the month.

“In talking with David, I think he’€™d feel comfortable with 25, 30 at-bats, likely to be taken place at Pawtucket. When that rehab assignment begins remains to be seen,” said Farrell. “We’€™re still hopeful of a target timeframe [for a return to the majors] of sometime middle, third week of April.”


— Will Middlebrooks, who played on Opening Day with a 102-degree fever, said that he’s feeling considerably better than when he was ready to topple prior to the first game of the year. His fever is gone, though a cold persists. A number of Red Sox players, however, are feeling under the proverbial weather to some degree, an unsurprising development considering the relocation from sunny, warm Fort Myers to New York, where the game time temperature on Wednesday was 42.

— Reliever Koji Uehara turned 38 on Wednesday. His five-pitch scoreless inning on Opening Day gave him a streak of 15 straight games (12 2/3 innings) without permitting a run, a span during which he’s allowed just two hits and one walk while striking out 19.

“He’€™s got the ability to attack very good left-handed hitters. We kind of view him as our second lefty right now in the bullpen,” said Farrell. “The urge is going to be, when we get into consecutive games, how much we need to balance his rest with days he’€™ll be on the mound. He’€™s a very accomplished pitcher.”

While the Sox are going to try to manage Uehara’s workload, it’s worth noting that he was excellent when pitching on back-to-back days with the Rangers last year. He did so nine times, tossing 8 2/3 shutout innings in which he allowed just one hit while striking out nine and walking none.

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