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Dustin Pedroia may return Tuesday for Red Sox

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / June 3, 2012
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TORONTO - Dustin Pedroia tested the stability of his injured right thumb Saturday, taking two rounds of batting practice before the Red Sox played the Blue Jays.

The first was in the batting cage under the third base stands. Then he took 25 swings on the field.

So, Dustin, how did you feel?

“How did it look?’’ he shot back with comic bravado, pleased with the assortment of line drives he produced.

Pedroia was wearing a molded plastic brace under his batting glove to protect the torn adductor muscle at the base of his thumb. The tentative plan is for him to take batting practice on Sunday and perhaps Monday when the team is off.

Barring a setback, Pedroia said, he would play against the Orioles Tuesday at Fenway Park. He has missed five games so far.

“We’ll see,’’ said manager Bobby Valentine, who is concerned that Pedroia could have some swelling after taking so many swings.

Valentine was closely watching how Pedroia handled inside pitches. Being able to keep his hands in and get the bat around is more difficult with an injured thumb.

“I feel like I’m ready to go,’’ Pedroia said.

Punto power

Pedroia’s backup, Nick Punto, was 3 for 4 with a double, a home run, two runs, and two RBIs in the 7-4 victory against Toronto.

How unexpected was that? Punto came in 7 of 53 (.132) with one extra-base hit and three RBIs.

“Absolutely super,’’ Valentine said.

Punto had an RBI double in the second inning, a single in the seventh, and a long solo home run to right field in the ninth. It was his first home run of the season and the 15th of his career.

Punto has been taking extra swings to try to regain his timing and make up for his lack of opportunities on the field.

“For me, this is definitely a chance,’’ he said. “I’ve been a utility player in the past but being a utility player in the National League or for [the Twins], I’ve played quite a bit.

“Here, there’s Kevin Youkilis and Pedroia and these guys play every day. It’s something I’m going to have to get used to.’’

Punto’s teammates gave him the silent treatment in the dugout after his home run. The veteran is very popular in the clubhouse.

“It was fun,’’ Punto said. “I said, ‘Come give me some love. I’ve been playing this game a while and that’s only my 15th home run.’ ’’

Aviles dinged

With Pedroia recovering but not on the disabled list, the Red Sox were essentially playing with 24 players and no middle infielder on the bench.

So Valentine was cursing to himself in the third inning when a bad hop caught shortstop Mike Aviles on his right hand.

“It skipped on the turf, missed the glove, and got me all hand,’’ Aviles said.

Valentine and assistant athletic trainer Brad Pearson came out of the dugout to attend to Aviles. But he stayed in the game.

“I tried to remind him he had a glove,’’ said Valentine, who was worried that Aviles broke a finger. “He momentarily forgot that.’’

Aviles said he just needed a few seconds because his hand was throbbing. But the pain went away and he finished the game without any problems.

Valentine said he was prepared to put Pedroia in the game.

Distinguished guest

Third base coach Jerry Royster had an unexpected visitor before the game Friday night. Former South Korea Prime Minister Chung Un-chan asked to speak with Royster, who managed in the Korean league from 2008-10. The two met outside the clubhouse. “He’s a big baseball fan,’’ Royster said. “I had met him when I was there along with President Bush.’’ . . . Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz are the only Red Sox to appear in all 53 games this season . . . Carl Crawford could be cleared to start throwing by the end of this week. The left fielder had been swinging a bat for about 10 days . . . Andrew Bailey is playing catch out to 90 feet as he recovers from thumb surgery. He has yet to throw off the mound.

Dress rehearsals

In rehab assignments, Darnell McDonald (oblique) went 2 for 4 with a double and an RBI and played left field in Pawtucket’s 5-4 loss to Lehigh Valley in the first game of a doubleheader; as the designated hitter in the nightcap, McDonald was 1 for 4 with another double in the PawSox’ 7-6 win. Ryan Kalish (shoulder) was hitless in two at-bats with two walks and played center in Portland’s 5-3 win over Altoona in Game 1 of a twinbill, and did not play in Game 2 . . . Will Middlebrooks hit a ball off the glass wall of the closed restaurant in the second deck above center field in batting practice. It was at least 430 feet. Middlebrooks was 1 for 3 in the game and has hit safely in seven straight . . . The Sox have won 42 of their last 67 games against Toronto . . . Red Sox leadoff hitters have 39 RBIs, eight in the last six games. Entering Saturday’s games, no other team had more than 27 RBIs from their leadoff hitters . . . The Sox are 15-11 on the road, 14-6 in their last 20 games away from Fenway Park . . . For reasons unclear, the pop song “Party In The USA’’ was playing the clubhouse before the game. Worse, it was a remix cover version by Fringe and not Miley Cyrus. Daniel Bard turned it off, only to cringe when Youkilis turned it back on. A heated debate ensued, with Marlon Byrd weighing in on the side of Bard and good taste.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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