ST. PETERSBURG -- Ace Josh Beckett had a productive Tuesday in his recovery from a lower back strain, playing long toss and then throwing some pitches off the mound.
Though it wasn't an official side session, it marked the first time Beckett had been on the mound since May 18 at Yankee Stadium.
The hope is that Beckett will have a full side session before Friday's game at Fenway Park against the Kansas City Royals.
"That's not etched in stone, but I think that's what we're shooting for," manager Terry Francona said.
The earliest Beckett is eligible to pitch for the Red Sox is on June 3 against the Oakland Athletics. Francona isn't sure yet if that date is realistic.
"You know what, I don't know," Francona said. "[Pitching coach John Farrell] and I sat down and talked to him for a little while today, and I think the biggest thing we talked to him about is, 'Don't worry about the date. When you're ready to pitch and pitch effectively, that's what we're shooting for.'
"I think sometimes guys like Beckett, because they care, because they're conscientious, because they want to carry their load, they want to do things too quick. So we really wanted to hit home, 'Hey, just get yourself feeling good and we'll get this figured out together.' And I think he probably understands that. It's just, sometimes he needs to hear it."
How is Beckett feeling?
"I think better, and that's the whole idea," Francona said. "I think every day he feels better, and again, that's what we're trying to do."
McDonald remains with Red Sox after all
ST. PETERSBURG -- While the Red Sox had essentially said their good-byes to Darnell McDonald after Monday's game, they said hello to him again on Tuesday.
To get him back, they merely had to wake him up.
The original plan was that McDonald was going to be designated for assignment so the club could clear a roster spot for Mike Cameron, who was activated from the disabled list on Tuesday.
But when outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury experienced soreness in his left side prior to Tuesday's game, the Red Sox contacted McDonald, who was still at the team hotel, and told him to report for the game.
Though McDonald's cell phone was on vibrate, it made just enough noise to awaken him from a late-afternoon nap before his scheduled flight back to Boston, which would have been around 8 p.m. ET.
"I was sound asleep," said McDonald. "I was trying to watch 'The Book of Eli,' and I fell asleep and my phone was on vibrate. I don't know how I got up. I looked, I saw it was Tito. I thought maybe it was a trade or something. He kind of explained the situation. It was another day like the first one."
McDonald was referring to his surreal first day with the Red Sox, back on April 20, when the team had sequestered him at a Boston hotel and told him to be on standby just in case the club had to put Ellsbury on the disabled list. When that happened, McDonald joined the club a couple of hours before the game and wound up supplying a pinch-hit, game-tying homer and a walk-off hit.
He got to Tropicana Field maybe an hour before Tuesday's game, but no such dramatics were needed from McDonald this time around. McDonald came on as a defensive replacement in the ninth but did not get tested in Boston's 2-0 victory.
It was nicely strange for Francona to be able to welcome McDonald back to the team less than 24 hours after he informed him that he was going to be a roster casualty.
"We tell our guys when these happen, 'Make the adjustment, go down and work on some things.' He did it as well as you can," quipped Francona.
Meanwhile, reliever Scott Atchison, who had just been recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket on Monday, was designated for assignment to make room for Cameron.
As for Ellsbury, he felt discomfort in his left side during batting practice. The outfielder had missed six weeks with a left chest contusion and a hairline fracture in four ribs before being activated on Saturday. Ellsbury got X-rays and a CT scan on Tuesday, and everything came back negative. He will be re-examined when the Red Sox return to Boston on Thursday and isn't likely to play Wednesday night against the Rays.
"Everything looks pretty good," Francona said. "I'm sure we're going to want to get some opinions from the people that have seen him and things like that. It was all good news. It's still, according to their doctors, kind of symptomatic, how he feels. But I think we felt like we needed to protect ourselves."
The Red Sox didn't want to designate McDonald for assignment in the first place, because he had done everything the club had asked since coming on board on April 20.
McDonald is hitting .263 with three homers and 11 RBIs in 31 games. Even before experiencing the soreness, Ellsbury was not scheduled to start on Tuesday. He had played in three consecutive games since coming off the disabled list.
V-Mart making progress from injury
ST. PETERSBURG -- Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez wasn't feeling all that bad on Tuesday, which was a good sign, considering how bad his left big toe looked following Monday's game. Martinez had to leave that game after a foul ball off the bat of Jason Bartlett caused a deep bone bruise.
Martinez was able to play catch and was hoping to take some batting practice on Tuesday. He wasn't sure if he'd able to catch on Wednesday night. He did, however, say that he could help in an emergency situation on Tuesday if something happened to Jason Varitek.
"I'm a lot better, a lot better than I expected. I've been putting more weight on it," said Martinez.
Without Martinez, J.D. Drew batted third for the Sox on Tuesday. Varitek hit eighth.
Rehabbing Tazawa checks in with Red Sox
ST. PETERSBURGH -- Junichi Tazawa, the Japanese righty who won't pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in Spring Training, visited with the Red Sox on Tuesday. Tazawa has been doing his rehab at the team's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla.
"Physically, I feel great, and right now I'm pretty much able to do everything that the training staff has set aside for me," Tazawa said through interpreter Masa Hoshino.
Of course, Tazawa hasn't been asked to do anything overly strenuous just yet.
"No, it doesn't include throwing a ball. Right now, we're just focusing on range of motion, so I think any talk about throwing a ball is going to be later," said Tazawa.
The biggest thing Tazawa is trying to overcome these days is the monotony.
"I think right now even small changes in my rehab program are really welcome, because it's something new that I can look forward to and they're a good change of pace mentally," said Tazawa. "As these changes have taken place, I've felt better and better about my rehab program."
Tazawa, who will turn 24 on June 6, pitched in six games for the Red Sox last season, going 2-3 with a 7.46 ERA. Even before the injury, he was expected to spend most of this season in the Minor Leagues.
He won't pitch again until 2011.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.