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07/16/10 1:37 AM ET

Epstein: Sox will be active in trade talks

GM pleased with performance of Francona, club amid injuries

BOSTON -- Two weeks before the July 31 Trade Deadline, executive vice president and general manager Theo Epstein said the Red Sox will continue to be active in the trade market.

"We're always actively looking," Epstein said Thursday. "It's really the same position we've been every year. Our job is to be as thorough as possible, find any possible fit to make us better."

While Epstein is open to exploring possible trades, he made it clear Boston will not make a move for the sake of making a move, believing sometimes such deals can make a team worse.

The Sox, while battling injuries to such high profile players as Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett throughout the season, remain only five games back of the American League East-leading Yankees entering the second half.

"Tito's done a good job, the whole coaching staff [has]," Epstein said. "Ultimately, it falls down on the players, holding things together and playing well and you find out what kind of organization you have as a whole when you're without some of your best players."

Yet, Epstein said, things are a lot easier when injuries do not run rampant in the clubhouse, like in 2004 and '07, when the Red Sox won the World Series.

"I do think were going to get so many guys back off the DL, were going to get a boost no matter what we do," Epstein said. "But yeah, we'd like to find a fit from the outside to make us better. We'll see."

Beltre feels better, but not in lineup

BOSTON -- After tweaking his left hamstring Sunday in Toronto, Red Sox third baseman Adrian Beltre was not in the starting lineup Thursday against the Rangers.

Beltre, who played in Tuesday's All-Star Game, got an MRI on Thursday, with preliminary reports showing no damage to his hamstring, manager Terry Francona said.

"I just think with the travel, I didn't have a real good feeling running him out there," Francona said. "Knowing the way he plays, I don't want to let him hurt himself."

Beltre participated in running drills before Thursday's game, and Francona said that the veteran third baseman could possibly be available in a pinch-hit situation, yet in the best-case scenario, would be available to play Friday.

"It is not as bad as people thought. A couple of days and I should be ready to go," Beltre said. "I was ready to play, but he [Francona] wouldn't let me. I did some exercises today to get it to be stronger and be the best we can be."

Beckett could return after next rehab start

BOSTON -- Ready for his start with Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday in Syracuse, Josh Beckett and the rest of the Red Sox are hoping it will be his last before rejoining the team.

"If he is ready to come back and pitch he will; if not, he won't and we will let him have another," manager Terry Francona said. "The plan is to throw maybe 85 pitches and if all goes terrific, he can come back and take his slot with us."

"If we all feel like he needs another one then we will do that, but we want to evaluate it after he pitches."

On Sunday, Beckett pitched four innings for Pawtucket, giving up one run on two hits, while striking out four and walking none. Beckett also threw a simulated game in St. Petersburg on July 6.

Beckett has been on the disabled list since May 19 with a lower back strain.

"The last start went good. It feels good. I threw a side [session Tuesday], so I'm kind of just on the building-up stage now," Beckett said. "I'm not trying to take it slow. We're definitely trying to accelerate the best we can, but the building-up part is basically like Spring Training. You can't go too fast or you end up going backwards."

Beckett said he felt a little tired during Sunday's game, but felt good the next day. Beckett threw a majority of cutters and sliders because he said it felt better than his curveball, which he didn't think was his best.

He is most excited by the fact that when he comes in the day after he pitches, he knows that he can play catch and not worry about limitations and what he can and cannot do.

"It's tough to sit in that trainer's room for four, six weeks and watch guys, some guys go down with you," Beckett said. "That one road trip seemed to really be bad. It's tough. For the most part, we've held our own with the things we've had going on."

Worth noting

Catcher Victor Martinez underwent a scan on his fractured right thumb Thursday. "They wanted to see it had become worse or displaced and it is OK," Terry Francona said. "He is still very tender. As that tenderness leaves he can do more, but that is where we are at." There is not timetable on when he may return. ... Outfielder Jeremy Hermida will begin his rehab assignment Thursday for Double-A Portland as the designated hitter. Hermida will head to the outfield Friday and DH on Saturday before being reevaluated Sunday by Red Sox doctors. ... If all goes well, he will then spend three days with Triple-A Pawtucket before joining the team in Seattle. ... Both catcher Jason Varitek and second baseman Dustin Pedroia will be checked out Friday to determine if they can begin any weight-bearing drills. ... Third baseman Mike Lowell, on the disabled list with a strained right hip since the end of June, took ground balls and hit on the tee and the cage before Thursday's game. "He actually felt pretty good," manager Terry Francona said. "We will start ramping him back up."

Quinn Roberts is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.