ST. PETERSBURG -- Daisuke Matsuzaka took a break from the monotony of his rehab in Fort Myers, Fla., and took the near two-hour drive to visit his teammates at Tropicana Field.

The righty recently underwent Tommy John surgery and won't be able to pitch again until, at the earliest, the second half of 2011.

"It's almost the same routine every day. So I would say that sometimes it's kind of boring," Matsuzaka said through interpreter Kenta Yamada. "Usually, I start off at 8:30 in the morning and finish around 3 in the afternoon. I was doing exercises to regain my range of motion. This week, I started core exercises as well as lower-body exercises."

Matsuzaka is encouraged by his recovery and has used Red Sox Minor Leaguer Junichi Tazawa, who had Tommy John Surgery last year, as a measuring stick.

"According to my physical therapist, it's going up really well, as far as my range of motion," Matsuzaka said. "Taz did the same thing last year, and as far as the physical therapist looks at it, my recovery process is four weeks earlier compared to Taz. So it's gone smoother. I've regained my range of motion almost fully."

Were there any surprises when Dr. Lewis Yocum performed the surgery?

"One thing the doctors were surprised about is that, when the doctor opened up my elbow, the ligament was completely torn," Matsuzaka said. "The damage was worse than expected."

Matsuzaka misses being around the team but thinks the isolation is probably better for his recovery.

"The first thing I always pay attention to is what the team is doing," Matsuzaka said. "When I see the players playing well, I tend to be in a hurry to get back to the team. It's kind of nice to stay away from the team and focus on what I have to do on the rehabilitation."

Beckett cleared to start for Red Sox on Sunday

ST. PETERSBURG -- You can cross Josh Beckett's left knee off the Red Sox's crowded injury report. The righty had a productive workout on Friday and declared himself good to go for Sunday night's start against the Rays.

Beckett hyperextended his knee one week ago in a start against the Orioles and had to back out of the All-Star Game when he couldn't get loose.

"I played long toss [on] some flat ground," said Beckett. "Everything is good, just like I said it was. If that would have been a regular game, I would have pitched in it. It's just tough. You go out there, there's a lot of things going on before the [All-Star Game], maybe time is not always on your side."

The fact that Beckett won't have to miss a start is a big relief for the Red Sox, who are already without their two other top starters -- Jon Lester (strained left lat muscle) and Clay Buchholz (back woes).

Lester, however, feels confident he'll be able to return in a week and pitch at the start of the homestand against the Mariners.

"Lester went out today and threw 45 and 90 [feet], did really well," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He felt nothing. Tomorrow he'll get it out to 120. If all goes well, he'll probably take a day and then have a side. He's doing real well."

Buchholz's recovery has been much more tedious, but it appears he's finally making some progress.

"Buck says he feels good," Francona said. "Buck's antsy, too. I think we care more about how he does when he throws. You get guys who get to that point, they'll say anything because he wants to go pitch."

Lowrie growing stronger, may swing bat soon

ST. PETERSBURG -- Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie appears to be feeling some progress in his ailing left shoulder, which has kept him on the disabled list since June 17.

"Jed is actually much improved on the strength," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona.

Lowrie might be able to start swinging a bat as early as next week, when the Red Sox open a three-game series in Baltimore against the Orioles.

It's still too early to project when Lowrie might return to the roster. In the meantime, Marco Scutaro has been getting the bulk of the playing time at shortstop, with Yamaico Navarro serving as the backup.

Navarro has also been getting some time in the outfield, including Friday's start in left against Rays lefty David Price.

"He looks real comfortable," Francona said of Navarro in the outfield. "It's actually pretty impressive. He's just got a nice feel. Wherever you put him, he's got that clock. We talk about it all the time. There's no panic. He's really athletic. He looks good out there."