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08/22/11 8:26 PM ET

Improving Ellsbury likely to return on Tuesday

ARLINGTON -- Still without three of their key position players for Monday night's opener of a four-game showdown against the Rangers, the Red Sox should get dynamic leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury back for the second game.

Ellsbury, who has missed the last three games after suffering a back contusion on Friday night, had a good day on Monday.

"Jacoby is doing OK," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He came in early and hit, which is good. I think we're pushing for tomorrow. I think he's good with that. He came in and he was sort of 'I think he can play,' so I said let me take this out of your hands -- we'll go one more day. I think if we do that, we'll be in good shape tomorrow."

There was clearly a difference for Ellsbury between Sunday and Monday.

"He hit yesterday, but it wasn't easy for him," Francona said. "Today he let it loose a little bit more. He did better. If he keeps improving like he has he'll be able to play tomorrow. He'll be sore, but he'll be ready to play."

David Ortiz, another key cog who hasn't played for Boston since Aug. 14 because of bursitis in his right heel, took batting practice for the third straight day.

A bigger step comes Tuesday when he sheds the walking boot -- hopefully for good -- and does some running. If Ortiz passes that step, his return could come during the series against the Rangers, which concludes Thursday night.

"He'll be re-evaluated again to see if he can get out of the boot," Francona said. "I think now it's not so much comfort, because when he hits he's good, but as the point tenderness goes away enough where I think the medical people think he can start doing some running and not go backwards. We have to see where he is. He'll be looked at every day."

And what about third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who is on the disabled list with a lower back strain and not eligible to play until Sept. 2?

"Today is an upgrade in activity, doing some cardio, some core work, things like that," Francona said.

Wakefield to go for win No. 200 at Fenway Park

ARLINGTON -- Red Sox manager Terry Francona has made a slight adjustment to his pitching rotation, one that will allow veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to make his sixth attempt at career win No. 200 at Fenway Park on Friday night against the Oakland Athletics.

Originally, Wakefield was scheduled to pitch Thursday in Texas against the Rangers. But Francona decided to give Andrew Miller, Boston's sixth man, a spot start on Thursday, allowing the rest of the pitchers in the rotation to get an extra day of rest.

The idea of Wakefield having a chance to get his milestone at home is something Francona likes, but it was not the main reason he made the switch.

"There's a lot of reasons [for the switch], and you can't do it for sentimental reasons, but I'm glad," said Francona.

Wakefield has pitched fairly well in all five of his first attempts at No. 200, four of which have come on the road. But for a variety of reasons, he's been unable to get the win.

"Me and [pitching coach] Curt [Young] sat on the plane and we kind of said in Kansas City we kind of wanted to stick Andrew in somewhere -- we weren't really sure where," Francona said. "Kind of looking at it, we really leaned on [Jon] Lester pretty good the last three starts. This way we'll back Wake up and let him pitch Friday in Boston, send him home a little early, back up Lester, and going forward that gives everybody a little bit of rest."

Having a pitcher like Miller to slot into the rotation when other pitchers need a break is a nice luxury for Francona to have at this point in the season. Miller won his last start on Friday night in Kansas City, giving up three hits and a run over 5 1/3 innings.

"Sometimes you have to maybe catch a break with the schedule," Francona said. "I think it's good. We've been both places. We were in '04 where we ran everybody out there, never said a word and let them pitch. Sometimes you have to be a little creative. He's such an interesting guy and when he goes out and wins it makes it a lot better."

Buchholz optimistic he can return down stretch

ARLINGTON -- When the Red Sox return to Fenway at the end of this week, Clay Buchholz is hoping doctors will give him clearance to do some light throwing. The righty hopes this will be the start of a progression that will get him back on the mound at some point during Boston's stretch run.

Buchholz has a stress fracture in his lower back and last pitched for the Red Sox on June 16.

But he has been thoroughly enthused by the way his rehab has been going of late and thinks it's realistic he can pitch again in 2011.

"That's been my goal the whole time," Buchholz said. "It still hasn't changed. I feel better, a lot better than I did a month ago. I think the stuff that we're doing, it's working, it makes me more confident. It's getting more monotonous every day doing the same stuff, so I definitely want to be out of the training room as quick as I can. So that's my hope. That's what I want to do."

There's a chance Buchholz would be a reliever when he comes back, if only because that would speed up the process. With the Minor League seasons coming to an end, it might be a challenge for Buchholz to have enough time to get stretched back out as a starter.

However, he hasn't ruled anything out yet.

"I'll do whatever they want me to do," Buchholz said. "I'm a starting pitcher. I like going out there and starting games and setting up hitters and throwing six, seven, eight innings. Sometimes that might not be possible considering the time we have left in the season. We haven't really sat down and talked about it at all. As I start progressing as far as the throwing goes, that will be a conversation we'll have."

Red Sox expect to have Drew back by Sept. 1

ARLINGTON -- The current plan the Red Sox have for right fielder J.D. Drew is to activate him on Sept. 1, the day rosters expand. That would allow the right fielder to return for the final game of a three-game series against the Yankees.

Sidelined since July 20 with a left shoulder impingement, Drew has been hitting for the last several days.

He will start a Minor League rehab assignment for Class A Lowell on Friday and Saturday. Drew will work out with the Red Sox on Sunday and get a day off on Monday. Then he would play for Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning to the Red Sox the next day.

Though Drew has had a tough season at the plate, his return might come at a good time. Josh Reddick, who has taken Drew's spot in the lineup, has struggled of late. In August, Reddick is hitting .226 with two homers and four RBIs.

Another player who is taking steps toward a return is reliever Bobby Jenks, who is in the midst of his third DL stint this season. Jenks threw a 24-pitch side session at the team's Spring Training complex in Fort Myers, Fla., on Monday. He will do so again on Wednesday and perhaps start a Minor League rehab assignment after that.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.