Pedroia out, Youk rests, Gonzo at 1B

TORONTO -- Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia took grounders during batting practice Friday but remained out of the lineup for a fourth straight game.

Pedroia hasn't played since jamming his right thumb in the fifth inning of Monday's win over Detroit after, an injury later diagnosed as a torn muscle.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine joined provided an optimistic outlook.

"It's the meaty part of the hand, where the ... muscles that control the thumb get bruised by a pitch being thrown inside and the bat vibrating in the hand," Valentine said during his weekly appearance on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "Most of his swelling is down, he's gripping a bat, he played catch [Thursday].

"I don't think the DL is going to be in the cards for him. That being said, he's not ready to play just yet, so we're playing -- as they say -- a man short."

Valentine added that while there is natural concern that Pedroia could get hurt worse when he's able to return, he's not worried about it.

"I think Dustin can go out there and play, and not be affected at all, unless a re-occurrence of the original situation presents itself. That fastball that comes inside that you don't get the head of the bat out and you get your hands out, and it hits close to your hand and you get that vibration, it can be painful."

Nonetheless, Valentine did not offer any specifics in Toronto on when Pedroia might be able to resume hitting. The 2008 AL MVP has had a special brace fitted to his bats, but has been told not to swing until swelling in the thumb subsides.

"We just want to let nature take its time," Valentine said before the Red Sox faced the Blue Jays.

Pedroia took grounders from bench coach Tim Bogar during the first half of batting practice, then walked off the field and returned to the clubhouse.

Valentine had hinted Thursday that Boston would not continue to play short-handed through the weekend, with speculation rife that infielder Pedro Ciriaco would be promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket.

Rookie Will Middlebrooks, who played shortstop in high school, took grounders at short before Thursday's loss to Detroit.

Like Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis was also out of the lineup Friday, a scheduled day off. Valentine said he offered Youkilis the chance to take consecutive days off Sunday and Monday, when Boston does not play, but Youkilis preferred to split up his days of rest.

Youkilis, the subject of trade rumors, is batting .313 (10 for 32) with two homers in nine games since returning from a 22-game absence caused by a sore back.

"He's been great," Valentine said. "Youk's 100 percent and when Youk is 100 percent, he's a really good member of the team. He's playing good defense, running the bases well and having good at bats."

Nick Punto started at second base Friday, with Will Middlebrooks at third and Adrian Gonzalez at first base and Ryan Sweeney in right.

Asked whether Gonzalez, who has started eight of the past 12 games in right, would return to the outfield this weekend, Valentine said "maybe," and denied suggestions Gonzalez is unhappy in right.

"I don't sense that," Valentine said. "There's been no indication of that."

Valentine called the defensive rotation between Gonzalez, Youkilis and Middlebrooks "a workable situation but maybe not long term."

"I think after the off day would be a good time to collect everyone's thoughts on it, or maybe even in the next couple of days," he said. "It just depends on how it affects the guys physically and mentally."

While Pedroia's situation remained murky, there was clearer news for a trio of Red Sox currently on the disabled list:

• Outfielder Cody Ross, out with a fractured left foot, has told Valentine he "feels great." Ross will have his walking boot removed and undergo a physical exam when the Red Sox return home next week, and could be cleared to resume baseball activities or begin a minor league rehab stint.

• Right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka (right elbow) allowed two runs, including a solo homer, in 5 1/3 innings at Pawtucket on Thursday, his second rehab start.

"He's staying there, he's going to throw his bullpen there and throw again (Tuesday)," Valentine said. "The reports were much better. First inning home run, up to 94, sat at 91, had a good changeup. Worked quick with men on base, there were only a couple of men on base."

• Outfielder Darnell McDonald (right oblique) is also at Pawtucket, and will play through the weekend there.

• Also joining the PawSox this weekend is right-hander Mark Prior. The former first-round pick, who last pitched in the majors in 2006, was signed to a minor league deal last month and had been at extended spring training.

Valentine called Prior's advance a "great story."

"He's made constant progress. People have liked his attitude and his throwing ability."

Ian Harrison is a special contributor to ESPNBoston.com.