SEATTLE -- The return to health of the Red Sox is far from complete, but the team did get another player back on Thursday, as outfielder Jeremy Hermida was activated from the disabled list.

The left-handed hitter, who has been out with fractured left ribs since June 10, will start against right-handed pitchers. Lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith pitched for Seattle on Thursday and southpaw Jason Vargas goes Friday night, so Hermida's first start will likely be Saturday against David Pauley. In the meantime, he gives manager Terry Francona a solid pinch-hitting option.

"It's never fun to be hurt, especially to sit back and watch so many guys go down," said Hermida. "But I'm happy to be back and excited to be back and I'll contribute in any way I can."

To make room for Hermida on the roster, the Red Sox optioned outfielder Daniel Nava to Triple-A Pawtucket.

Nava made a memorable introduction to the Red Sox, becoming the second player in Major League history to belt a grand slam on the first pitch of his career, on June 12 against the Phillies.

In 91 at-bats for the Red Sox, Nava hit .286 with one homer and 16 RBIs. It was a strong showing for a player who was in an independent league before signing a Minor League deal with Boston in 2007.

"Really professional hitter," Francona said of Nava. "The one thing we kind of told him, and I guess it shouldn't surprise me but it does, and maybe I'm getting old, we try to impress upon young guys when they come here, how much urgency there is in our games. I think young guys, they see the games on TV, it looks nice. Then they get in the dugout, and I think it surprises them. I think that was a big surprise for him.

"It was like, 'Hey, every play means a lot. When you're coming up through Double-a, Triple-a, you make a mistake, it's development. Over here, it's on SportsCenter.' I think it took him a little time to figure that out but he's a good hitter. Hopefully, he'll take this time with us and he'll take it and grow because he can hit a little bit."

Wakefield to the bullpen

SEATTLE -- With ace Josh Beckett set to reclaim his spot in the rotation on Friday night, Red Sox manager Terry Francona had to bump Tim Wakefield to the bullpen for the second time this season.

The veteran knuckleballer threw his normal post-start side session on Thursday, but will be available as a reliever before the weekend is out.

"I guess we do what we think is best for the team, and explain it, and when guys don't like it, don't understand it, we try to explain it to them," said Francona. "It's no different with Wake than with anyone else, with the exception that we've known Wake a long time, we know what he's accomplished. But regardless of who they are, we try to have the same attitude. We try to put the team first and explain to guys why we do things. It's really no different."

Of course, Wakefield could always reappear in the rotation, whether it is to give another starter an extra day of rest or to step in if there is another injury.

"We're coming up on August, so we should be in pretty good shape as far as if we need him again, which I don't doubt we will," Francona said. "Some of how we use Wake will be determined by how everyone else does. He's probably not a situational guy, but some of it will be determined by how the rest of the staff is doing."

Lowell starts rehab at Pawtucket

SEATTLE -- While the Red Sox opened a four-game series at Safeco Field against the Mariners, Mike Lowell started up a Minor League rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket.

Lowell went 1-for-5 in the opener of a stint in which he will play four times in six days.

The veteran corner infielder/DH has been on the disabled list since June 24 with a right hip strain. Lowell had a cortisone shot in his surgically repaired hip on Monday.

"I've been doing my rehab work with [physical therapist] Scotty Waugh at the stadium and more range of motion," said Lowell to reporters at Pawtucket, R.I. "Obviously it feels much better being on the field and doing baseball stuff. I think everything's been positive up to now."

There has been nothing significantly wrong with Lowell's health this season. His biggest problem has been not finding enough at-bats on a roster that has Kevin Youkilis at first base, Adrian Beltre at third and David Ortiz as the designated hitter.

"My feelings and sentiments haven't changed since Spring Training. I do feel better than in Spring Training," said Lowell. "Even before needing the shot, that position right there [in the hip] is better than how I was last year. It's just a year removed. There's more time for everything to stabilize and strengthen. That's what's been frustrating about this season. When you feel better than what you played in the year before, you want to have the opportunity. I think that's human nature and that's normal. If I didn't feel that way, then there would be something abnormal about it."

Beltre returns to Seattle

SEATTLE -- Huddled behind reporters who were in mid-interview with Adrian Beltre, Victor Martinez couldn't help but chime in.

"Turn the page, turn the page, you're with the Sox now," Martinez playfully said to Beltre.

Beltre returned to Safeco Field as a visitor on Thursday night. He also returned as an All-Star who is having a stellar first season for the Red Sox.

"In my five years here, I played with the guys that I spent a lot of time with," Beltre said. "Great teammates. It's going to be good to see them again. Five years that I played here, I gave it my all, and they're in the past now."

And the differences between playing in Seattle and Boston?

"Seattle, it can be more laid back," Beltre said. "The fans, they're more forgiving. They used to win every year. Seattle wants to win, and they try to put a good team together, but these days it's been tough on them, and it hasn't happened the way they wanted. It's just a different organization."

Beltre has a player option for his 2011 contract, but can become a free agent if he chooses. Will he wind up back on the West Coast, where he spent his entire career before this season?

"It's too early to tell," Beltre said. "We'll see how the situations play out. It's too early to tell. We have to wait and see what the options are, and what Boston is going to think to do. I have to get together with my family and we'll work things out."

Worth noting

Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is getting closer to a Minor League rehab assignment. The left-handed hitter started hitting on the field on Wednesday in Fort Myers, Fla., and, according to manager Terry Francona, could ease his way back in by playing in Gulf Coast League games within the next four or five days. ... Victor Martinez (fractured left thumb) took another significant step toward returning to the Red Sox, catching Tim Wakefield's side session on Thursday and will do the same for Clay Buchholz on Saturday. ... Second baseman Dustin Pedroia will likely have to wait until the club returns to Boston in one week to get clearance to remove the walking boot from his fractured left foot. But Francona said Pedroia might get checked by doctors in Anaheim early next week to see if he is healing quicker than expected. ... In a Minor League depth move, the Red Sox acquired infielder Jack Hannahan from the Mariners for cash or a player to be named. Hannahan will report to Triple-A Pawtucket. He was hitting .228 in 63 games for Triple-A Tacoma.