Victorino, Middlebrooks close to returning

BOSTON -- In an ideal world, manager John Farrell said Thursday, the Boston Red Sox would get Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks back at the same time.

In an ideal world, that would be this weekend, when the Red Sox resume play after the All-Star break against the Kansas City Royals, a team with legitimate postseason aspirations.

But a couple of hurdles remain. Victorino, who was in Pawtucket on Thursday night, has to play in back-to-back games there, Farrell said, before the Sox would consider activating him.

Victorino expressed some hope before Thursday's game that he might be able to convince the Sox to accelerate the process.

"We need to get some '9's' under my belt and maybe it's one nine and hopefully I'm up there sooner than later," Victorino said. "I know John has said hopefully this weekend and every time we set out a number, or set out a timetable, there's always been a setback.

"For me, I'm not going to put a timetable on anything. I'm going out there [Thursday night] and I'll take one at-bat at a time, one game at a time and we'll decide and see how my body feels."

Victorino has played in just 11 games over the course of two rehab assignments, including four with short-season Lowell. He has just one hit in 30 at-bats.

Middlebrooks, meanwhile, said the fractured index finger on his throwing hand is no longer an issue. His second rehab assignment was shut down Sunday because the days over the break counted against that assignment, Farrell said. The clock starts again Friday, when he is scheduled to play for the PawSox.

Farrell said the club has shelved, at least for the time being, plans to see Middlebrooks play some left field.

"The intention, when Will resumes tomorrow, is to remain at third base," Farrell said. "If there's a point in time where we expose him to left field, that will probably take more discussion internally. When we had the intent prior, that was before Mookie [Betts] came up, before Vic was close to us. Third base will be the focus at this point."

Middlebrooks jammed his wrist last weekend, but remained in the game and sat out the next day just for precautionary reasons. He said it's not an issue.

Middlebrooks has played 17 games, all in Pawtucket, while on his two rehab assignments, posting a .232/.283/.339/.623 slash line.

"Will has been playing more regularly," Farrell said. "With Will, it's a matter of getting more consistent timing. Vic, it's a matter of getting him back on the field with any kind of consistency. Two different scenarios."

Middlebrooks said he has had very little conversation with the Sox regarding their plans.

"I know I'm going to play tomorrow," he said. "Beyond that, I don't know. Hopefully, the third time will be the charm.

"I felt really good. The only time I feel anything is when I hit the ball off the end of the bat.

"I feel comfortable. Now it's just being more consistent. ... It's been so long since I played full games other than the last few days. I've got to get back out there and stay healthy.

Middlebrooks said getting healthy and returning to third base were his priorities. Playing the outfield was something he considered for "down the road."

"That's fine with me," he said when relayed Farrell's remarks about playing third base. "I'm a third baseman. But if they need me [in left], that's something I can do."

Joe McDonald contributed to this report.