MIAMI -- When the Red Sox have played in National League cities in recent years, designated hitter David Ortiz has often been squeezed out of the lineup. But don't expect that to happen a whole lot this week, when Boston plays six straight under NL rules.
Ortiz, who has been the most productive hitter for the Red Sox all season, started at first base on Monday night. He will start at least one more game in this three-game series, and don't be surprised if he also plays two out of three at Wrigley Field over the weekend.
The left-handed slugger was batting .308 with 14 homers and 38 RBIs entering Monday.
"He's been an offensive force in this lineup in case we haven't noticed that," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "I'd rather not play many games without him."
Adrian Gonzalez started in right field while Kevin Youkilis got the nod at third. Will Middlebrooks was the odd man out.
"I think we've put to rest the ballpark concept with Adrian [in right]," Valentine said. "It's more about David and how much he will feel comfortable playing first base. Talking to David, he's good for two of these three to start with. We'll take it from there. And Adrian said he's fine with right field."
Hill diagnosed with strained flexor muscle
MIAMI -- After visiting with Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla., on Monday, Red Sox lefty reliever Rich Hill was diagnosed with a strained flexor muscle in his left elbow.
Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine expects Hill, who was placed on the disabled list on Sunday, to miss about "a month or more."
"Rich Hill has a strained flexor muscle, and he'll have some time to rest that and get it back," Valentine said. "He threw 94 mph his last game and threw his breaking ball and felt a little stiffness. That stiffness was not in the ligament, luckily. They feel it was in the flexor muscle."
Before Hill's injury, the Red Sox had the luxury of going with three lefties in the bullpen.
Now they have Franklin Morales and Andrew Miller. Morales, in particular, may be used in some different spots to help fill the void left by Hill.
"I'm trying to figure that one out," said Valentine. "I think he knows that I explained a little plan to him. One of the things that was mentioned is that he's very durable and flexible. I want his mind to remain open."
Bard's second Minors outing an improvement
MIAMI -- Daniel Bard's second outing since being demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket was hardly perfect, but it was better than his first.
Bard pitched an inning out of the bullpen on Monday. After giving up a single and a walk to the first two batters, the righty responded with a groundout and two strikeouts.
After starting in his first game for Pawtucket -- that one was also a one-inning stint -- Bard suggested he pitch his innings out of the bullpen for the foreseeable future.
The goal of the organization is still to get Bard back to the point where he can be an option in the starting rotation. By bunching short innings together, the hope is that Bard can regain his groove quicker.
"It took me two batters to get locked into an arm slot," Bard told reporters in Pawtucket. "I was a little bit lower than I would like to the first couple of hitters, and you saw some balls running away from me. I was able to make the adjustment and pitch pretty well to those last three guys. The nice thing is that I can focus on that and say, 'It wasn't perfect, but it doesn't matter.' I was locked in. I got something good to walk away with on those last three hitters."
Ahead of schedule, Ross could return soon
MIAMI -- When Cody Ross was diagnosed with a fracture in his left navicular bone, the Red Sox revealed that the general timetable for that type of injury is six to eight weeks. However, Ross has appeared ahead of schedule at every turn and feels he might be back in Boston's lineup on June 19, which would be just one day past the one-month mark of when the injury occurred.
The right-handed-hitting outfielder plans on starting a Minor League rehab assignment on Friday for Triple-A Pawtucket. Ross feels he can play three games for Pawtucket and then return to the Red Sox when they open their next homestand against the Marlins.
"The original plan was to drag it out a little longer to make sure it went smoothly and start my rehab on the 18th, but I feel too good," Ross said. "I feel great. The trainers are doing a great job getting me ready, and we're all on the same page. I'm feeling good."
Ross feels that his foot has passed every test with flying colors.
"I don't foresee anything being an issue," Ross said. "I've been hitting out on the field. It feels great. I've been running. I ran about 80 percent yesterday. I feel great -- no soreness today. Nothing. Agility won't be a problem, baserunning won't be an issue."
Manager Bobby Valentine had been optimistic all along that Ross could beat the projected timetable.
"Cody looked great. Cody today took BP out there and thought he should just skip the rehab, he was swinging so good," Valentine said. "That's not going to happen, but he looked great."
Bobby V wants technology for balls and strikes
MIAMI -- Though he's been around baseball his whole life, it was while serving as an analyst for ESPN during the Little League World Series that Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine came to the revelation that technology needs to be implemented for balls and strikes.
Valentine was talking about virtually every level of baseball, because he simply doesn't think pitchers or hitters should be victimized by arbitrary calls or human errors.
The strike zone is what it is, in Valentine's mind, and should be called as such.
"When I did the Little League World Series, I thought it was the most criminal thing I ever saw," said Valentine. "I wanted to cry when a kid in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and his team down by one run was called out on a strike three on a pitch that was six inches outside. He couldn't reach it with his bat. I cried for him.
"And that kid is scarred for life playing our game by an injustice. And then someone says the most ridiculous words that I ever hear: 'But we like the human factor.' It was criminal that we allow our game to scar a young person like that, and then it continues on. I think in 2012 it should not be part of the process. I don't think it should be."
Valentine is just mystified that technology can't be put into place to leave the guessing out of it.
"I want a ball called a ball and a strike called a strike, and figure out how to do it," Valentine said. "Let the humans do it, somehow. That's what the game is. I don't care what anyone says. I could get fined for it every day of my life. It's my belief. Our game is not somebody else's strike zone. Our game is what the book says. That's how it should be played from Little League to Cooperstown, to make it fair, to make it right."
Valentine wanted to make it clear that he wasn't minimizing how hard it is to be an umpire.
"I think they're very well trained, and I think they're very good at what they do. I think it's almost impossible to do what they do, so why do we ask them to do the impossible?" Valentine said. "If in fact you can't see the ball the last five feet, and now pitchers are throwing pitches that are moving in that zone, cutting and splitting and moving in the zone, your eye can't see what's happening. Your lens doesn't snap that photograph and register in the time the ball is moving the last five feet. So if you can't see it, why are we asking them to call it? They can't see it. They're humans. We're asking humans to do a feat a human can't do."
How should the system be incorporated?
"I don't know how to do it. I know you can do it," Valentine said. "It's 2012. Maybe it should start in Little League. Start it so the kid doesn't go home crying and not want to play our game again because of this thing that happened, and it's happening thousands of times a day. I think it's a flaw. I'm not talking about what happened this weekend, or what's going to happen tonight. I know it's part of the game, but I say it shouldn't be.
Right-hander Aaron Cook, who has been on the disabled list since April 21 with a left knee laceration, will start a Minor League rehab assignment on Wednesday when he pitches for Class A (short-season) Lowell. Cook estimates he will throw about 45 pitches and said he will make at least two more Minor League starts after that.
Left fielder Carl Crawford had a solid day of batting practice, according to Valentine, and continues to increase the reps in his throwing program.
Left fielder Daniel Nava (sore left hand) missed a second straight game but could return in a day or two.
Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is taking soft-toss batting practice in the cage. There's no word yet on when he will hit on the field.