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Will Middlebrooks, Jacoby Ellsbury close to returning

Posted by Alex Prewitt  July 8, 2012 06:38 PM

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The ranks of the walking wounded in the Sox clubhouse will soon thin. Will Middlebrooks and Jacoby Ellsbury are close to returning.

Middlebrooks, sidelined after exiting a week ago with hamstring tightness, will likely take the All-Star break to fully recover, then return to Boston's lineup against Tampa next weekend.

"He looked really good out there running, says he feels really good," manager Bobby Valentine said. "Iím leaning towards not having him play [Sunday against the Yankees]; unless thereís a major setback somewhere between now and then; he looked really good running today, he did all his agility work, said he feels nothing."

Earlier Sunday, Jacoby Ellsbury went 1 for 4 with a run for Triple A Pawtucket. He flew out to left, singled to center, grounded out to third, and grounded into a double play.

"I havenít talked to him after the game today," Valentine said. "When heís ready heíll be ready; itís probably getting pretty close."

Pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, on the DL with a neck strain, threw in the outfield during pregame today as well.

"He looked like heís more comfortable and throwing with a better motion," Valentine said. "Iíll be talking to him later today about a plan of action."

Assorted nuggets from Valentine's pregame press conference:

On the challenging first half: "Iíd say that it was extremely challenging; Managing a new team is very challenging, and we had some situations that added to the mix.

"New guys, where theyíre going to hit, how weíre going to play together, what kind of health weíre going to have is yet to be seen. Iím very optimistic; the guys I have today I think we can win a ballgame with, and the guys I have after the break, I think weíll be the same type of group."

On Saturday night's hero, Pedro Ciriaco: "He played extremely well in spring training, he hit like .400, so whatís there not to like when a guy is always on base. He has speed, which allows him to advance around the bases rather quickly; his defense was very good in spring training, he played very good defense last night. He was able to bunt for a hit in spring training on a number of occasions, and he did that again last night. All the things we saw in spring training over about 15 games came into view last night."

On his All-Star Break: "Iím still waiting to see how many meetings Iím going to have here, if Iím needed, then Iíll make a plan. Iím not planning on [going out of town]; I can go south or Iím sure to hit the coast, or even north, Iíve had a lot of invitations out there; weíll see what goes on."

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