BOSTON -- Jacoby Ellsbury could begin a Minor League rehab assignment as soon as Friday with the Gulf Coast League Red Sox.
Out since April 13 after suffering a subluxation (separation) of his right shoulder vs. the Rays, Ellsbury could join fellow outfielder Carl Crawford in the GCL.
"It's great," said manager Bobby Valentine. "I'm cautious, but I think it's great that we've gotten him to the point where he's back on the field. That means you start looking forward to the time he's on the field here. But he's not on the field yet."
Ellsbury took batting practice at Fenway Park prior to Tuesday's game against the Blue Jays. He also shagged fly balls and played catch.
"[Hitting coach] Dave Magadan really likes the way he's looking," Valentine said. "I saw him yesterday. He looked strong."
The plan is for Ellsbury to start his rehab assignment as a designated hitter on Friday, and then later transition to playing center field.
Carl Crawford began his rehab assignment with the GCL Red Sox on Saturday, going 0-for-3 with two walks and a run scored as the DH. The GCL Red Sox were rained out for the second straight day on Tuesday, limiting Crawford to batting practice.
On Tuesday, the Red Sox contemplated moving Crawford to another Minor League affiliate to get him on the field and avoid another possible rainout. He's recovering from a UCL sprain in his left elbow and also had offseason surgery on his left wrist.
"We're trying to figure out if it's better to move him to play," Valentine said. "They say the storm is coming up the Northeast. I don't know. I think Carl was ready to play in the field when the rain hit."
As for injured outfielder Ryan Sweeney, on the disabled list since June 17 with left big toe inflammation, he's progressing and is no longer wearing a walking boot on his left foot.
"He had special orthotics made for his left inner sole," Valentine said. "He has some issues with the bottom part of his leg that are being manipulated and dealt with to try to alleviate the problem going forward."
Buchholz stable in hospital with esophagitis
BOSTON -- Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz is in stable condition and remained hospitalized Tuesday, when the team revealed the right-hander has esophagitis.
"Clay Buchholz has esophagitis, which led to an erosion of the esophagus and an associated gastrointestinal bleed," the club said in a statement. "He has been evaluated and observed at Mass General Hospital. Clay is doing well and is expected to make a full recovery."
A Red Sox source who talked with Buchholz did not expect the absence to be months-long and said the right-hander was eager to get out of the hospital.
Buchholz went to the 15-day disabled list on Sunday. Whether he'd need more time than away was "something we're dealing with every day," manager Bobby Valentine said.
"Clay is stable," Valentine said. "I think that's good news."
Buchholz is 8-2 with a 5.53 ERA in 14 starts this season. He has not pitched since June 19 vs. the Marlins. In four starts this month before going on the DL, Buchholz was 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 30 innings.
Aaron Cook assumed Buchholz's spot in the rotation on Sunday, making his second start with the Red Sox. Cook allowed three runs in five innings to beat the Braves.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine's website, "Esophagitis is a general term for any inflammation, irritation, or swelling of the esophagus, the tube that leads from the back of the mouth to the stomach."
Beckett set to start in Seattle; six-man staff likely
BOSTON -- Josh Beckett's return to the rotation will come on Saturday in Seattle, Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said after Tuesday's 5-1 win against Toronto.
Beckett hasn't pitched in a game since June 11 because of right shoulder inflammation. His return means the team may carry a six-man rotation into the All-Star break, which, after Tuesday night's game, is 11 games away.
Beckett threw a bullpen session prior to Monday's series opener vs. the Blue Jays. Valentine said Beckett told him the shoulder felt great.
"I'm considering it. Until the All-Star break?" Valentine said of the six-man rotation. "Yeah. I think there's a situation where, depending on how we slot Josh in, I think it can benefit everyone to get a little creative there until the All-Star break."
Beckett is 4-7 with a 4.14 ERA in 12 starts this season.
Valentine said Daisuke Matsuzaka, who started Tuesday and went 5 2/3 innings in a no-decision, would make his next start during a three-game series in Oakland next week.
Lillibridge given first opportunity with Red Sox
BOSTON -- Brent Lillibridge made his first start as a member of the Red Sox on Tuesday, playing center field and batting ninth against the Blue Jays.
Acquired on Sunday in the trade that sent Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox, Lillibridge became the 13th different player to start in Boston's outfield this year.
"I'm excited -- I'm going to be out there and show guys what I can do and hopefully help us win tonight," Lillibridge said. "Get it out of the way, right? Better now than late. I'm nervous, but I get my chance today."
Lillibridge entered the game with a good track record against Blue Jays starter Aaron Laffey, going 3-for-4 with an RBI in his career vs. the left-hander, though it's a small sample size.
"Try to see how he fits in as part of the team, let his teammates see him play. He's actually had some success against this guy in the past," said manager Bobby Valentine. "Maybe we will find a little something."
The utility man split time at third base, first base, left field and center field in 49 games with Chicago this season. The Red Sox already have a versatile infielder in Nick Punto, though the club would like Lillibridge to play both the infield and outfield.
"If he could play both, it would be really a plus," Valentine said. "I've been told that he can, and he says that he's most comfortable in center field. We've seen where he's played in the past. We'll figure it out."
Still, Fenway Park offers challenging dimensions for a new center fielder, with the triangle in straightaway center and a lot of ground to cover.
"It's tough work out here to be an outfielder, it's different," Lillibridge said. "I hope I can understand it a little better with time and work on it. It's just kind of first reaction and first instinct and go from there, hopefully don't run to hard into the big, heavy wall, I don't see too much padding out there."
Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.