BOSTON -- Of all the opponents the Red Sox could face in the American League Division Series, the one that would come with the best built-in subplot would be the Cleveland Indians, who are managed by Terry Francona.
Not only did Francona lead the Red Sox to two World Series championships in his eight years in Boston, but manager John Farrell is one of his best friends in the game.
"There'd be a lot of stories to all of it if all of it works out," said Farrell. "Because we're in it, because we're fans of the game, yeah, we pay attention, but hell, we've got stuff to take care of ourselves."
Is Farrell watching any Indians action?
"Other than Yan Gomes getting hit with a breaking ball last night before the triple?" quipped Farrell. "Yeah, we're following."
Though the Indians weren't on a lot of people's radar before the season started, Farrell is hardly surprised by the job Francona and his team have done.
"Not at all," Farrell said. "They'd run through a wall for him. It's not surprising that even when they've had some injuries, whether it's to [Justin] Masterson or some other guys, that guys are stepping up. It's kind of characteristic of his teams."
Ellsbury confident he'll return in regular season
BOSTON -- Though Jacoby Ellsbury is still waiting to be cleared to resume baseball activities, the center fielder is "very confident" he will be back in the lineup before the regular season ends on Sept. 29.
The center fielder fouled a ball off his right foot on Aug. 28 and played for eight more days before shutting it down and undergoing an examination that revealed a compression fracture.
"I played seven games after I fractured it. I definitely tried to be in there as long as I could, and the docs basically had to pull me out and tell me, 'You've got to let this thing rest and give it time,'" said Ellsbury, who spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since he stopped playing.
Though the steps in his recovery are very gradual, Ellsbury can feel the difference each day.
"I'm making great progress," Ellsbury said. "The doctors are pleased with how everything's gone. We're taking it day-by-day and working hard to get back on the field."
At some point, Ellsbury will make enough progress to return to the lineup, right?
"Very confident," Ellsbury said. "Everybody's excited. The docs are just happy with my progress. We're hopeful I'll be back playing. I feel very confident I'm making quick progress."
How many games does Ellsbury feel he needs to rediscover his timing to be ready for the postseason?
"I'm not real sure," said Ellsbury. "Just right now, I'm focused on getting back to the team. It's been fun watching them play. I'm definitely dying to get back out there."
In the meantime, Ellsbury is trying to maintain his patience as the Red Sox close in on clinching a postseason spot without their leadoff man.
"The docs have put me on a fast track as far as a plan and getting back as quick as possible," Ellsbury said. "At the same time, just getting out there and playing like I can. I keep on telling them I'm trying to push the envelope with them. They always have to tell me to slow down. It does take time, but I'm very hopeful I'll be back playing soon."
Victorino jams thumb, comes out of game
BOSTON -- The Red Sox lost center fielder Shane Victorino towards the end of Wednesday's 12-inning 5-3 loss to the Orioles with a jammed right thumb.
In the midst of an ultimately unsuccessful rally in the bottom of the 12th, manager John Farrell had No. 2 prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. pinch-hit for Victorino.
Victorino's status for Thursday night's game is up in the air. He has battled nagging injuries all season while still managing to be an invaluable contributor.
"He's got a little bit of a jammed thumb," said Farrell. "He's wearing a guard to protect it, to give him some cushion. But we felt like after that final at-bat we needed to make a move there just because of the soreness he's experiencing."
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who stole home as part of a double steal in Sunday's game against the Yankees, stole third on Tuesday. But it turns out the latter theft was not by design.
"We got lucky last night," Farrell said. "The swipe tag by [Manny] Machado, he got in under the tag, so it looks like we pulled off a double steal. We screwed up a hit and run and we benefited from it, to be honest with you."
However, Farrell acknowledged that Saltalamacchia, though not known for his speed, is a smart baserunner.
"Actually, he's one of our best baserunners, to be honest with you. Instinctually, he gets very good reads," Farrell said.
• The beards were out in full force on Wednesday night, as more than 4,000 fans took advantage of the Red Sox inviting all bearded customers the opportunity to buy tickets for $1. Some of the most heavily-bearded patrons -- including one man who said he had been growing his beard for two years -- posed on the field for pictures before the game with Jonny Gomes.
• Farrell said he is leaning toward an 11-man pitching staff in the postseason, which would leave room for five bench players. The manager hasn't decided yet if Ryan Dempster, who is doubtful to be part of the postseason rotation, will pitch again in the regular season. Dempster could be valuable as a reliever in October, given his previous experience in that role.