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Reinforcements on the way

Injured players lined up to return

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 13, 2012
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Jacoby Ellsbury is set to rejoin the Red Sox for Friday night’s game against the Rays after missing three months with a shoulder injury.

Will Middlebrooks went through a full workout on Thursday night and said he is ready to play, too. He was out for seven games with a left hamstring strain.

Carl Crawford was 2 for 3 for Triple A Pawtucket Thursday night and the tentative plan is for him to come off the disabled list on Monday. That would be his first game of the season.

Dustin Pedroia, on the DL with a thumb injury, also got some good news on Thursday and is close to returning.

The 43-43 Red Sox will soon have the kind of roster they envisioned at the start of spring training but have yet to see. For general manager Ben Cherington, there are no more excuses.

“We’ve been saying for a while that we feel like we have a good team here. But at some point you’ve got to show it on the field and the reality is we’re at .500 at the All-Star break,” Cherington said Thursday night after the team worked out at Tropicana Field.

“We have good players who have been playing and we have good players on the way back. But at some point you have to stop talking about the cavalry coming back and just start winning games. We’re going to do that.”

With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaching, Cherington said the Red Sox have no plans to break up their roster.

“I don’t envision a scenario where we’re sellers in the traditional sense of the word,” he said. “We have some potential surplus in areas that we’ve been talking to teams about; if there’s a way to help us now and in the future. Every year in Boston is too important. We’re focused on winning this year and still believe we can.”

But Cherington also made it clear he’s not eager to dip into a farm system to deal for short-term rental players.

“You never say never to anything. You’ve got to keep an open mind,” he said. “But we feel really good about our farm system. It’s come a long way even in the last 12 months. We feel like that next generation of Red Sox players is coming.”

How the team plays over the next two weeks will determine whether Cherington leans one way or the other.

“It has to,” he said. “We’re always going to do everything we can to give ourselves a chance to win. There’s no such thing as taking a year off in Boston. We feel like we’re right in it and have as good a chance as most teams to be there at the end.

“We’ve got to play well and give ourselves that chance. We’ll do everything we can to improve the team in the meantime. We’ll see where we are at the later part of July.”

Ellsbury, who went through a full workout on Thursday, has been out since April 13 with a partial dislocation of his right shoulder. An All-Star who was second in the MVP voting last season, Ellsbury would figure to make a significant impact.

“All signs point to him coming back, yes,” manager Bobby Valentine said. “We’d love to have him back, that’s for sure. He feels pretty good.”

Ellsbury refused comment on his status, twice declining interviews.

Crawford still has a few games to play for Pawtucket, but he could return to the lineup on Monday at Fenway Park. He has sufficiently recovered from wrist, elbow, and groin injuries.

Crawford has said he could eventually need elbow surgery on a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament. But Cherington doesn’t believe surgery is necessarily the best option.

“That’s been discussed as a possibility down the road,” he said. “But there are plenty of position players who have performed at a very high level with a UCL injury, and we believe Carl can do that. But he’s got to go do that.’’

Middlebrooks ready

Middlebrooks took grounders, batting practice, and then did some agility drills and ran the bases with the trainers and Valentine watching.

“I’m ready to go,” said the rookie, who was injured July 1. “Everything feels normal to me.”

Middlebrooks is hitting .298 with 21 extra-base hits and 37 RBIs in 48 games.

Pedroia had the cast taken off his right hand on Thursday and was cleared to start hitting. He took batting practice and put several balls in the seats.

“I feel great,” said Pedroia, who hyperextended his thumb. “I heal quick. I’m a lizard.”

Pedroia said he could return July 19, the day he is eligible to come off the DL.

Drawing a crowd

The return of Ellsbury and Crawford will give the Red Sox a surplus of outfielders. Ryan Sweeney is one potential trade candidate. But Cherington hopes to keep as many outfielders as he can.

“We’re open to discussing some of the guys with teams. Teams have called on some of our outfielders. But we’re not real motivated to move anyone unless it really makes sense,” he said. “If everyone is healthy we’ll have some roster decisions to make.”

Bailey getting closer

Andrew Bailey, out all season with a thumb injury, threw from 180 feet then threw 15 pitches from flat ground. He is close to throwing off the mound . . . Righthander Chris Carpenter (elbow) was moved to Double A Portland on his rehab assignment . . . Adrian Gonzalez, who was taken out of last Sunday’s game with a bad cough, is feeling much better. He had IV treatment during the game . . . All but four players attended the optional workout. David Ortiz, who was in the All-Star Game, was told to take the day off. Righthanders Josh Beckett, Aaron Cook, and Vicente Padilla did not attend.

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

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