Dustin Pedroia remains on pace to return Thursday, manager Bobby Valentine said before Monday's series opener against the White Sox at Fenway.
Pedroia has been on the disabled list with a hyperextended right thumb, and is eligible to come off for the finale against Chicago.
"Talked to Dustin this afternoon. He truly feels great," Valentine said. "Watching him hit, it's different right now. I think he's on track."
Pedroia, who is hitting .266 this season, has not played since July 3. But he should return soon, and has drawn positive reviews from his manager.
"Different than what it was, except for the first two weeks of the season," Valentine said of Pedroia's recent batting practice sessions. "It wasn't like he was hurt, he didn't quite feel what he feels right now. He didn't have the timing. The simple term would be the timing."
Valentine was asked if Pedroia should be at 100 percent when he returns.
"That's what it looks like," he said. "And talking to him today, that's what it feels like."
Having Pedroia back would give the Sox their full lineup for the first time all season. Since being promoted from Triple A Pawtucket to start in place of Pedroia, Pedro Ciriaco went on a three-game tear in which he went 10 for 12, but he has tapered off since, stuck in an 0 for 8 slide with four strikeouts over the past two games.
Other nuggets from Valentine's pregame conference:
- The decision to designate Brent Lillbridge to make room for Carl Crawford came down to Ellsbury's presence in the lineup again. "It seems that Ells is back and ready to go ... he could do what we wanted him to do, but it's probably the thing that we need the least right now," Valentine said.
- Adrian Gonzalez is batting cleanup after sitting out recently with illness and then back spasms. "He says he's rested and feels really good. I would suspect he's ready to play a lot," Valentine said.
- Ryan Sweeney has been out with a tight hamstring and is not in today's lineup. "Sweeney was in the tub when I saw him, but that's normal at this time of the day," Valentine said. "He says he feels better."
- Franklin Morales was listed in the pregame notes as Thursday's probable starter, but Valentine said that the Sox have not discussed the rotation. Morales, however, is available Monday as a reliever, as Felix Doubront and Aaron Cook were in Tampa. As far as his future plans for a six-man rotation, Valentine said: "Well, we haven't even gone through it yet. I'm not sure we'll go more than once through, but we'll see. It hasn't been a rotation yet. Just been a ... line of six guys, and we're at four right now."
- On the performance of his starters in Tampa: "Terrific. Absolutely what the doctor ordered. We'd like to keep the ball rolling here at home."