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04/19/08 8:53 PM ET

Lowell, Cora showing improvement

Third baseman closer to returning than second baseman

BOSTON -- One batter took swings on Saturday afternoon in the batting cage on the field while another took his hacks off a tee.

And both Alex Cora and Mike Lowell showed signs that point toward progress in their respective rehab programs.

With Lowell, there's a more definitive timetable in place for a return to game action, likely via a rehab stint.

"Barring setbacks -- and we're still kind of early into this -- we might be getting into a place where maybe we're a week away from him playing in a game," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "At least we're looking at some timetables."

Lowell sprained his left thumb while diving for an Ivan Rodriguez grounder in the top of the first inning on April 9 against the Tigers.

"Lowell took 35 swings off the tee and did well," Francona said. "It was supervised just so he didn't do too much."

Francona had cautioned Lowell against trying to do too much too soon.

"We tried to talk to him about 'Hey, this is about how you feel. These dates mean nothing,'" Francona said. "But at least he's feeling to the point where I think we can at least look at things like that and make some adjustments if we need to."

Where Lowell might play Minor League games in a possible rehab has yet to be decided. Francona said he needs to consult with general manager Theo Epstein about specifics.

"It wouldn't be long," Francona said. "Two or three days would probably be enough. Again, it all depends on how he feels. We can set all the numbers we want, but he has to be healthy. We're trying to mix being a good baseball player, being healthy and being ready to play. He understands that. We'll be OK."

Meanwhile, Cora, rehabbing his sprained right elbow, was cleared to take swings in batting practice on Saturday and felt no pain.

"Cora's got the OK to do everything but throw and certain weigh-lifting things he has to alter," Francona said. "But he's allowed to do everything else."

Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.