BOSTON -- When the Red Sox opened their homestand against the Rays on Friday night, third baseman Will Middlebrooks was on the bench.

However, manager Bobby Valentine joked that Adrian Gonzalez was actually the one getting the day off. Instead of playing in right field for the third straight game, Gonzalez moved back to first base. Kevin Youkilis played third for the first time since coming off the disabled list.

Middlebrooks will start on Saturday, which means Gonzalez could play right field at Fenway Park for the first time in his career.

When the Red Sox were in Baltimore earlier this week, Valentine sounded as if he had some hesitancy about having Gonzalez play right field at Fenway, where there are unique angles and a lot of ground to cover. But watching the way Gonzalez aptly played the position on the road might have helped change Valentine's mind.

"Well, some people have had that hesitation and I'm not sure how to read it," Valentine said. "As I told you, I think he positions himself extremely well and he gets a good jump on the ball. Does that make up for some of the [lack of] foot speed? I'm not sure. All I know is thus far, when the ball is hit, we do a pretty good job of retrieving it and the opportunities he's had have led me to believe that he can catch it if he can get to it."

As for Middlebrooks, he will continue to stay in the mix on a fairly regular basis as long as he is on the Major League roster.

Boston's top prospect had played 18 games in 18 days before Thursday's team off-day.

"I think it's a nice time to do it," Valentine said. "Get two in a row [including Thursday's off-day] and come back fresh. He'll be in there tomorrow, playing tomorrow."

At this point of his development, Valentine doesn't imagine he'll play Middlebrooks anywhere but third base.

"I keep asking if there's another position and I keep hearing no," said Valentine. "Other than DH, I'm not sure what that would be. We have experimented with some things though, so I wouldn't say it's out of the realm of possibility, but it hasn't been discussed in a light that has inspired me."

Dice-K to start second rehab stint Saturday

BOSTON -- Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka will start his second Minor League rehab assignment on Saturday when he pitches for Triple-A Pawtucket.

Matsuzaka's first assignment was cut short last week when he had to get a shot in his right trapezius muscle.

When he pitches against Toledo on Saturday, the clock will re-start at 30 days, meaning the Red Sox must activate him -- barring another setback -- by June 25.

Matsuzaka is coming back from Tommy John ligament transfer surgery. In five Minor League starts this season, Dice-K is 0-2 with a 4.62 ERA.

What do the Red Sox need to see from Matsuzaka before putting him back in their rotation?

"I think it's more hearing it from him," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He's got to know that he's ready, ready to do it. And I don't know when that comes with guys who are rehabbing, but they know. When the time comes, they know."

Matsuzaka isn't the only Major Leaguer playing at Pawtucket this weekend. Outfielder Darnell McDonald was set to play five innings there Friday night as he recovers from a right oblique strain. McDonald will get Saturday off. He is eligible to be activated Sunday, but the team might opt for him to get some additional at-bats in the Minors before he returns.

Ross feels he's ahead of schedule

BOSTON -- When Cody Ross was diagnosed with a fracture of the navicular bone in his left foot, general manager Ben Cherington said that a player generally misses about six to eight weeks.

As the days progress, Ross is convinced that he will beat that timeline handily.

Ross, who was placed on the disabled list retroactive to Saturday, feels that he could return soon after he is eligible, which is June 5.

"Cody Ross came into the office today and said his foot felt great," manager Bobby Valentine said. "And in his mind, it shouldn't be much more than the disabled list that he's on."

Is that realistic?

"It's all about pain. He's got to be true," said Valentine. "That's what I said to him, 'Just be true to yourself, true to us.' If you don't feel anything, 'Hey let's go play.' If you feel something, give it more time. There's no other way of doing it. I think as Ben said, if the follow-up MRI comes and shows some healing, then we'll know that a little more time will be all the healing."

Outfielder Ryan Sweeney, who suffered a concussion and is eligible to return from the seven-day disabled list on Monday, has shown some improvement in recent days.

"Yeah, just moving around nicely, doesn't have much stiffness in his neck," said Valentine. "But I don't know what the update is on the MLB tests that he has to pass before he resumes baseball activities."