FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The question with Aaron Cook is simply this: Will he start the season in the Red Sox's starting rotation or on a Minor League rehab assignment so he can get more stretched out?

Manager Bobby Valentine has ruled out any possibility of Cook helping his team as a relief pitcher. That is mainly due to health considerations.

"He has some situations that they tell me about, and it would be best served for him at the beginning of the season if he stays on line [in the rotation]," said Valentine.

Valentine continues to like what he sees from Cook, particularly when you consider the righty started later than the other pitchers during camp.

"His sinker is the real deal," Valentine said. "He obviously had it in the first inning, with five or six outs on 13 pitches against a Double-A crew [on Wednesday]. His offspeed stuff is still coming. He's very far along."

Valentine expecting club will reach postseason

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- One of Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine's least favorite things to do during his time as an ESPN analyst was to make predictions. Now that he is back on the other side, other "experts" are making predictions about his team.

Unlike a year ago, when the consensus was that the Red Sox would not only win their division, but also make it to the World Series, expectations from the outside are decidedly modest for this year's group.

However, Valentine sees good things for a team that hasn't won a playoff game since 2008 and missed October entirely the past two years.

"I have great expectations for this group. You're not picking us?" Valentine asked the questioner. "We expect to make the playoffs. Motivation is all self-motivation. That stuff doesn't come from the manager, it doesn't come from the press, it doesn't come from the fans. The individuals are motivated by needs and desires. I haven't figured that all out individually what motivates each of these guys."

For much the same reason he hated making predictions as a member of the media -- he joked that he had his researchers make the picks for him -- Valentine certainly doesn't pay much attention to them now.

"You can't put anything into it," Valentine said. "If I don't know what my team is going to look like and what the competition is going to look like, how the heck could anybody else? That's the way I look at it. Who knew what Arizona was going to be last year? No one. Zero."

Red Sox don't want to put pressure on Crawford

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox simply don't think it is prudent to publicly outline a timetable for the return of Carl Crawford, because it could force the left fielder to push too hard to make a perceived deadline.

But late April or early May seems like a reasonable projection, given where Crawford is at in his rehab from left wrist surgery and subsequent inflammation.

"I don't think that they're top-secret things," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "The only thing I know about that is that you don't want to put the kid -- anybody rehabbing -- under the pressure of a deadline. It can never be the calendar or the schedule that says when a guy is healthy. It can't be. It's not fair. It's just not fair."

Crawford would probably need about 15 games of Minor League action to get the 50 at-bats or so he needs to be Major League-ready.

"If he gets 15 games from the time he starts playing, we have a target, but it's not a bull's-eye," Valentine said.

The plan on Thursday was for Crawford to bunt about 20 times.

"They have a very detailed schedule," said Valentine. "It's hard for me to give you all those things. He needs to stay on course, which he is, and slowly progress."

Crawford has done tee work, but he hasn't taken batting practice against a coach yet.

Red Sox send first baseman Bogaerts to Cubs

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The Red Sox completed their obligation in the compensation package for former general manager Theo Epstein by sending Minor Leaguer Jair Bogaerts to the Cubs on Thursday.

Bogaerts, a 19-year-old first baseman, is the player to be named later in the deal that was agreed upon last month. Pitcher Chris Carpenter, who underwent elbow surgery on Thursday, was the main player Boston received.

A right-handed hitter, Bogaerts batted .288 with two homers and 27 RBIs in the Dominican Summer League last season.

He was signed as an international free agent by the Red Sox in 2009. Bogaerts' brother, Xander, is one of Boston's top prospects.

On March 15, the Cubs announced they were sending Minor League pitcher Aaron Kurcz to the Red Sox as the player to be named. However, Carpenter revealed on Wednesday he will undergo surgery to remove bone spurs from his right elbow.

"It's certainly something we had no knowledge of," Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday about Carpenter's injury. "I don't think he had any elbow issues for the last two years. It's unexpected and unfortunate.

"It's obviously something you never want to happen. With any trade, you want both sides to feel good. It's not a great thing to have happen both for Chris or the Red Sox."