BOSTON -- Maybe if the Red Sox didn't enter their last game before the All-Star break sitting 8 1/2 games behind the first-place Yankees and just one game above .500, Carl Crawford would've already had surgery on his cranky left elbow with a full recovery due before the 2013 season.
Prior to Sunday night's series finale against the Yankees, the Red Sox left fielder admitted he'll inevitably need Tommy John surgery and that at some point his elbow is "going to go out on me."
So Crawford will play through the discomfort, which he says only occurs when he's warming up. He's in line to play again for Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday with a return to the big league club coming soon.
"I thought about [having elbow surgery], but at this point, if I can play, I think they want me out on the field," said Crawford, who has yet to appear in a game this season. "I'm just trying to do everything I can to get back on the field.
"Right now, I feel like if I couldn't help the team, I wouldn't get out there. I think helping the team right now is probably best for me."
Meanwhile, the mild left groin strain Crawford experienced Thursday night during a rehab assignment with Double-A Portland shouldn't be a concern. He said his groin tightens up every year when he starts running again.
"It's just one of those things that it always happens to me," he said. "We're just taking care of it. I know how things are around here: Once you say one little thing, it goes way bigger than what it really is. That's it pretty much.
"I actually feel good, man. That's the thing. I'm ready to get back on the field. I was making progress in the games I was playing and feeling really good about that."
Since the Red Sox stopped his 20-day Minor League rehab stint, Crawford had to sit out five days before he can begin a new rehab assignment.
When Crawford does return, he said it's probably best if he hits the cut-off man every time he makes a throw from left field, rather than stretching his arm out and trying to gun down a runner at home.
At this point, the Red Sox appear ready to take whatever they can get from their $20 million outfielder.
"We've got some guys coming back; me and Jacoby [Ellsbury], [Andrew] Bailey. Hopefully [Daniel] Bard will be back up here at some point," said Crawford. "We feel like we can still make a run at it. That new Wild Card has made it possible for teams to make it late in the season. Hopefully that's the case for us."
After rehab outing, Buchholz eyes Saturday return
BOSTON -- It hasn't even been a month since Clay Buchholz was placed on the 15-day disabled list with gastrointestinal bleeding and esophagitis that left him in the hospital for five days, and already the righty says his body is back at full strength.
Buchholz threw 43 pitches at McCoy Stadium for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday and is scheduled to start on Saturday against the Rays.
Manager Bobby Valentine said he watched Buchholz throw 2 1/3 scoreless innings on Sunday, walking two and allowing one hit.
"He looked pretty much the way we needed him to look for those 40 pitches," Valentine said. "I'm glad he got his spikes wet in Triple-A, and he's confident that he'll be able to give us some length on the second game out [of the All-Star break], and so is the [coaching] staff."
Buchholz said he'll find a way to pitch against some batters during the All-Star break, hoping that by Saturday he'll be able to toss 80 or 85 pitches, working five or six innings.
"I got my break, so my body feels strong and healthy," he said.
Jacoby Ellsbury is also nearing a return. He went 1-for-4 with the PawSox on Sunday and Valentine said the center fielder is "getting pretty close."
Will Middlebrooks, who hasn't played since July 1 after tweaking his left hamstring but avoided a trip to the disabled list, was running around with ease and Valentine expects him to take the All-Star break off and return to action Friday against the Rays.
"Unless there's a major setback somewhere between now and then," Valentine said. "He looked really good running today. He did all his agility work, said he feels nothing."
Adrian exits with illness, hitting streak ends
BOSTON -- Adrian Gonzalez exited Sunday night's 7-3 loss to the Yankees prior to the top of the third inning due to illness, effectively putting an end to his career-high 18-game hitting streak.
"Yeah, he got sick during the game where he was coughing," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He was getting real dizzy and eyes were watering.
Gonzalez hit .372 (29-for-78) during that span, raising his average from .257 to .283. He finished the first half of the season with just six home runs, his lowest first-half total since becoming an everyday starter in 2006. Gonzalez had never hit less than 13 homers before the All-Star break.
Well-known as an iron man, Gonzalez hadn't missed a game this season and has played in at least 156 games every year since 2006.
Gonzalez was replaced by Nick Punto, who took over at third base and Mauro Gomez slid over to first.
Red Sox to honor Varitek in pregame ceremony
BOSTON -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit 17 home runs in the first half of the 2012 season, but on July 21, Jason Varitek will be the more celebrated Red Sox catcher.
The club announced that the Saturday night game against the Blue Jays will be "Thanks, Tek Day" at Fenway Park, with a pregame ceremony expected to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET.
No catcher spent more games behind the plate in a Red Sox uniform than Varitek, who retired after appearing in 1,488 games over 15 seasons, the fourth-longest tenured Boston player to never play for another MLB club.
The 40-year-old Varitek announced his retirement on March 1.
While Franklin Morales didn't pitch as well as he had hoped on Saturday, giving up six runs in the first game of a doubleheader with the Yankees, he did pick off a pair of baserunners.
When Alex Rodriguez was reaching too far off first base with runners on first and second, Adrian Gonzalez walked over to Morales and had a short chat. Two pitches later, Gonzalez snuck behind Rodriguez and Morales threw over for the easy out. Morales then nabbed Nick Swisher off first later in the inning.
Before Saturday, Morales had picked off just six in 222 2/3 innings.
"I know when I have a pretty good chance to pick somebody off in the right situation," Morales said. "When I see a pretty good chance, I look at home and throw over. And you need to change [your move] sometimes. You need to have two or three different moves when you're going to the base. I just had a feeling."
Reflecting on a wild first half with his new team, manager Bobby Valentine said: "I would say that it was extremely challenging. I don't know how to rate it or anything, but Major League Baseball is very challenging. Managing a new team is very challenging, and we had some situations that added to the mix.
"But I'm very optimistic. The guys I have today, I think we can win a ballgame with. And the guys I have after the break I think will be the same type of group."
Valentine said Jon Lester would probably get some extra rest after Sunday's game and pitch the first of a three-game set with the White Sox starting July 16.
Jason Mastrodonato is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.