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06/28/12 10:10 PM ET

Crawford makes strong throw; Ellsbury set for action

SEATTLE -- Carl Crawford continued to gain momentum in his Minor League rehab assignment on Thursday, making a strong throw to the plate. For Crawford, who is coming off a sprained UCL in his left elbow, throwing is the key to his recovery.

The left fielder was playing in his third Gulf Coast League rehab game. He went 1-for-3 with a walk.

"He made a throw from the outfield all the way home," said manager Bobby Valentine. "We have the cutoff man set up for him, where he can throw it short. He didn't want to throw it short. He wanted to throw it long just to see how it felt. He said it felt fine."

Crawford will be joined by teammate Jacoby Ellsbury for Friday's Gulf Coast League game. Ellsbury is expected to serve as the designated hitter, marking his first game action of any kind since he suffered a partially dislocated right shoulder on April 13.

"He took batting practice down there today and full baseball activities and felt good," Valentine said. "Looks like he'll play tomorrow."

Other outfielders are on the mend as well. Scott Podsednik, on the DL with a left groin strain, will start his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday.

Ryan Sweeney, who has been on the DL since June 17 with left big toe inflammation, has started "land-based activities" according to Valentine.

Sox to use six-man rotation through All-Star break

SEATTLE -- During this seven-game West Coast swing, the Red Sox will have six different starting pitchers work the first six games.

And with a day-night doubleheader on tap against the Yankees on July 7, you can expect manager Bobby Valentine to keep a six-man rotation through the All-Star break.

Even with Josh Beckett returning to the mix on Saturday against the Mariners, Valentine will keep Aaron Cook and Franklin Morales in the rotation for now.

Though teams go with a five-man rotation during most of the season, clubs typically always need a lot more starters than that to get through the 162-game grind. The Red Sox consider themselves fortunate to have some options these days.

"Well, I always think you need 10 [starting pitchers]," said Valentine. "I felt you leave Spring Training with 10 starters, because when you have a day when someone has to be skipped and you don't want to put him on the DL and you pluck someone from the Minor Leagues, you want to pluck the guy who's ready to pitch on that day. We didn't really build that full 10, but we were close."

If there was a time when a six-man rotation works, the week or two before the All-Star break seems ideal.

"You know, if ever a guy is out of gas, it might be now," Valentine said. "It's not necessarily even a physical thing. You start looking at the finish line and you lose a stride. I think when a guy has that extra day, you can kind of put aside the idea that he's tired."

Saltalamacchia hopeful of All-Star bid

SEATTLE -- Aside from David Ortiz, who appears a near lock to make the All-Star team, the other Red Sox player who seems to be drawing the most consideration is catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

While Ortiz is a perennial All-Star, this would be a first for Saltalamacchia, who has blossomed this season.

"I think it would be a great accomplishment seeing where I was at two or three years ago and being where I'm at now -- it's something I would definitely love to do," Saltalamacchia said. "I'm hopeful it would happen, but if not, we have a bigger picture of things and continuing to try to win and make it to the playoffs."

Manager Bobby Valentine has been a big backer of Saltalamacchia's since he was hired last November.

"He's played like an All-Star, so he could get the recognition from the fans, front office of the league, or whoever it is that selects them. He's been playing great," Valentine said.

Saltalamacchia is hitting .254 with 14 homers and 35 RBIs. His 14 homers are tops in the Majors among catchers. He leads American League backstops with 27 extra-base hits and slugging percentage (.539).

What has allowed him to take his game to the next level?

"I think it's the atmosphere, the trust and the belief that the organization and my teammates have in me," said Saltalamacchia. "Obviously [catching instructor Gary] Tuck and [former Red Sox captain Jason Varitek] were a big part of that last year with me and developing me and getting me in the right frame of mind and the right basics down. I kind of let myself just do the rest and continue to believe and play hard."

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.