Pregame notes: Crawford going strong

BOSTON -- Red Sox left fielder Carl Crawford turns 31 today and he’ll celebrate his birthday by playing in his eighth consecutive game, which is the most he’s played since returning from the disabled list on July 16.

He’s been playing well during this stretch and has shown no ill effects from his sore left elbow that will require Tommy John surgery at some point. Crawford has hit safely in seven of his last eight games with a .290 average, including two doubles, one triple, three homers and eight RBIs.

“He’s playing great,” said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. “He’s swinging well and doing everything we need him to do in the outfield and on the bases. If he needs a day [off] then he’ll get a day just like everyone else, but right now there’s nothing restricting him.”

Overall, Crawford is hitting .254 with three homers and nine RBIs in 17 games for the Red Sox this season.

-- After a brief day off on Saturday due to an undisclosed leg issue, Jacoby Ellsbury is back in the starting lineup and batting first for the Red Sox on Sunday. He did make an appearance in center field in the top of the ninth inning during Boston’s 6-4 loss Saturday night. Valentine said he believes the day off helped the center fielder.

“I hope so,” Valentine said. “We were trying to keep a situation from getting where we don’t want it to be, so hopefully his situation is gone.”

-- Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett is still on track to start on Wednesday against the Texas Rangers in a matinee game at Fenway Park. He was removed from his last start last Tuesday with back spasms and was skipped from his next scheduled start today for precautionary reasons. The right-hander played long toss on Saturday and was slated to throw on flat ground again today. He’ll likely throw his normal bullpen session on Monday in preparation for Wednesday.

-- Red Sox left-handed reliever Rich Hill tossed a bullpen session today and felt good afterward, according to Valentine. Hill has been on the DL since June 9 with an elbow strain. If he continues to progress, Valentine said it won’t be long before Hill is sent on a minor league rehab assignment.