ST. PETERSBURG -- Adrian Gonzalez was scratched from Friday night's lineup shortly before the game against the Rays for precautionary reasons, as Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine thought the first baseman looked stiff before the game.
Gonzalez left Sunday's first-half finale after just two innings due to flu-like symptoms, and Valentine said the illness "might have been a little related" to Gonzalez's condition. With Gonzalez out, Mauro Gomez took over at first base and hit cleanup. Completely scrapping and rearranging the lineup would have been too much of a juggling act, Valentine explained.
"I didn't think he was moving around real well today," said Valentine, who spoke to Gonzalez in the Boston clubhouse and during batting practice Friday afternoon. "For me, the decision to scratch him -- again, precautionary, make sure nothing happens that will keep him out more than a day.
"He was just real stiff today. Must have been from all the weight he lost and everything [while he was sick]."
Friday marked Gomez's first start of the season at first base, where he committed an error in the first inning. He had appeared in seven games this season, going 8-for-22 with three doubles, three RBIs, a walk and four strikeouts entering Friday. He finished 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and grounded into an inning-ending double play in the seventh.
Ellsbury back in lineup after three-month absence
ST. PETERSBURG -- After almost exactly three months on the disabled list, Jacoby Ellsbury was back in Boston's lineup Friday night, batting leadoff and playing center field.
To clear room on the 25-man and 40-man rosters, the Red Sox designated right-hander Justin Germano for assignment. Manager Bobby Valentine didn't know whether Ellsbury would start all three games this weekend at Tropicana Field. The 2011 American League MVP runner-up injured his right shoulder on April 13 and has been on the DL since April 14.
Valentine's only concern was how Ellsbury would handle headfirst dives, but Ellsbury said to "expect to see a normal me" on the field Friday night. He played eight rehab games, batting .290 with two doubles, a home run and four walks. He didn't anticipate any issues with his timing at the plate despite so much time off.
"I worked hard to get to this point, so I'm definitely excited," Ellsbury said. "We feel comfortable. The doctors feel like I can play. They felt confident that I should go out there and play to my abilities. Nothing should change."
"I feel good. I think I feel as good as you can coming into the ballgame. Definitely very confident, but most importantly, just excited to be out there. We're all hoping for a great second half from the team."
Ellsbury admitted it was hard to watch the team play without him, but Valentine downplayed the effect Ellsbury's absence had on the Red Sox offensively. Boston scored the second-most runs in the Majors in the first half with 432.
"We had a lot of different guys and a lot of different lineups, but we scored a lot of runs," Valentine said. "To say that we could've scored a whole lot more with all these guys in it, I'm not sure that that's the case. We played good offense in the first half of the season."
The Red Sox entered Friday's game with a .500 record and a great deal of speculation about drama in the clubhouse, but with Ellsbury back and several other injured players also on their way back, the center fielder expressed optimism about where the club is heading.
"We're getting guys back. I think guys have done a tremendous job," Ellsbury said. "We just know we're in a great position. We're looking for definitely a strong second half."
Red Sox get some good news on injury front
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jacoby Ellsbury's return to the Red Sox's lineup was just the first bit of unusually positive injury news the club had to share Friday. Boston has used the disabled list for 20 players this season, but a few key players should be on their way back relatively soon.
That will start Saturday, when Clay Buchholz comes off the 15-day disabled list to start against the Rays. Carl Crawford said Thursday he will join the Red Sox on Monday after going 2-for-3 with a run in five innings of work Thursday night with Triple-A Pawtucket.
Manager Bobby Valentine wasn't in quite as much of a hurry to guarantee Crawford would make his 2012 debut, but said he's feeling good and "getting closer."
Reliever Andrew Bailey threw a bullpen session Friday afternoon, his first one since June 22, when he felt tightness in his arm and had to delay his comeback from offseason thumb surgery.
"He's feeling better," Valentine said.
Reliever Chris Carpenter, on the 60-day disabled list after right elbow surgery, was scheduled to start for Double-A Portland on Friday night. He recorded a 4.50 ERA with five strikeouts in four innings over four rehab outings with the GCL Red Sox and Class A Greenville.
Valentine didn't have an update on Daisuke Matsuzaka (right upper trapezius strain), though he said the right-hander will "probably" need to go on a rehab assignment before returning.
Red Sox ink four Draft picks before deadline
ST. PETERSBURG -- Prior to Friday evening's deadline to sign players selected in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, the Red Sox announced that they signed four more picks.
The Red Sox signed right-handers Stephen Williams (16th round) and Willie Ethington (17th round) along with outfielders Brandon Magee (23rd round) and Khiry Cooper (25th round).
In all, Boston signed 25 of its Draft picks, including all 12 of its selections in the first 10 rounds. The Red Sox's top unsigned pick was high school outfielder Jamal Martin, taken in the 11th round.
Valentine didn't expect Buchholz to be able to throw 100 pitches when he comes off the disabled list to start Saturday night. Valentine estimated Buchholz would be up for "a good, strong" 90 pitches. He threw 43 pitches in a rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday.
Outfielder Cody Ross was not in the lineup against Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson on Friday night, but Valentine said Ross was doing "great" and will be in Saturday's lineup.
Minor League outfielder Ryan Westmoreland underwent surgery Friday for a cavernous malformation in his brain, the Red Sox announced. The surgery, performed by Dr. Robert Spetzler, was a success and Westmoreland is doing well, according to the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
This is the second time since March 2010 Westmoreland has undergone brain surgery for a cavernous malformation. Before the first operation, Westmoreland was considered one of Boston's top prospects.