ST. PETERSBURG -- The Red Sox have a return date for Jon Lester. The power lefty will be activated from the disabled list and start the game on July 26 at Fenway Park against the Royals.

Lester injured his lower left lat muscle during his start against the Blue Jays on July 5.

There will be a steady progression for Lester between now and his start, which will take away the need for a Minor League rehab assignment.

"He'll throw a side [session] tomorrow," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He'll come back Wednesday and throw a pretty significant side and then Friday or Saturday, he'll throw a smaller side. Then he'll pitch Tuesday."

Lester, being the competitor he is, was hoping he could have pitched the first day he was activated, which is Friday night.

"I think he was actually aggravated," Francona said. "He wanted to pitch Friday. So I think that's good news for us that he must feel good. But we need to give him a chance where he can go out and not be stuck on 60 pitches in his first game back."

Red Sox to welcome Crawford back on Monday

ST. PETERSBURG -- While the Red Sox were wrapping up a three-game series on Sunday night in Carl Crawford's old haunt of Tropicana Field, the speedy left fielder was arriving in Baltimore for a night of rest before rejoining Boston's lineup on Monday night at Camden Yards.

Crawford has been out since June 18 with a left hamstring strain. He went 1-for-5 in a two-game rehab stint for Triple-A Pawtucket.

"He didn't swing the bat great, but he was real healthy, which is perfect," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He got some at-bats out of the way. The timing at the plate, hopefully it will come quick. He'll be ready to go tomorrow. There are no issues physically. He felt really good, so that's great."

After a nightmarish start offensively, Crawford was just starting to show the Red Sox what he could do before he got injured. He is hitting .243 with six homers, 31 RBIs and eight stolen bases.

"His batting average might be lower this year than we're used to," Francona said. "But if he comes back for the last couple of months and is kind of that terror, a guy that causes havoc and stuff, what a lift that would give us."

Red-hot Reddick could create outfield logjam

ST. PETERSBURG -- The red-hot hitting of Josh Reddick has provided a big boost for the Red Sox the last few weeks. But with Carl Crawford set to return to the lineup on Monday night, manager Terry Francona could be dealing with a big logjam in the coming days.

While Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury figure to be mainstays in the lineup, Reddick could reduce some of J.D. Drew's playing time in right field.

Drew has struggled nearly all season, hitting .228 with four homers and 22 RBIs in 224 at-bats. Reddick, meanwhile, is hitting .379 with three homers and 17 RBIs in 66 at-bats.

It could be similar to earlier in the season, when a younger player -- Jed Lowrie -- got red-hot and veteran shortstop Marco Scutaro switched to a backup role.

"If that's considered a dilemma, I'd like to have a lot of them," Francona said. "I understand your point. At some point, when he's hot like that, the kid's got to play. It's kind of like Lowrie earlier in the year. You're not doing your team a service. He's been terrific. And to be honest with you, until we're there, I don't know how to make that work perfectly, but we're just going to try to win. Whoever we think can help us win, we'll play."

Ortiz expects appeal ruling before O's series

ST. PETERSBURG -- David Ortiz was right back in the fifth spot in Boston's batting order for Sunday night's game against the Rays, but he was well aware he might not be so lucky by the time the Red Sox get to Baltimore on Monday night.

Ortiz is still waiting to hear back from Major League Baseball regarding the appeal of his four-game suspension for his actions on July 8 in a bench-clearing melee with the Orioles and right-hander Kevin Gregg.

With the Red Sox and Orioles set to meet Monday for the first time since that eventful series, Ortiz seemed to have an expectation that his appeal would be ruled on before the game starts.

"I'll probably hear something today," Ortiz said. "Probably, I'm not sure. It's 5 o'clock and I haven't heard anything. I'll probably hear something later on tonight or probably tomorrow morning."

Whether Ortiz plays in the three-game series against the Orioles, he hopes that there will be no more incidents between the two teams.

"Hopefully not," Ortiz said. "MLB is paying attention to all that stuff. I'm not a pitcher. I can't tell you anything about that. I don't throw the ball. Hopefully they'll be smart and put that away and play the game the way it's supposed to be played."