Bobby V: Crawford to begin swinging soon

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said Thursday morning that he expects outfielder Carl Crawford to begin swinging the bat in the next couple of days.

Crawford has been limited this spring because he experienced inflammation in his left wrist, which was surgically repaired in the offseason.

“He is going to be hitting soon,” Valentine said of Crawford. “I don’t know (specifically) when that is.”

Valentine said that Crawford has been working on his timing by standing in when Boston pitchers throw.

“The work that’s gone unnoticed I think is going to pay dividends,” Valentine said. “He has taken it upon himself to find a pitcher every time he’s throwing to stand there and see (pitches). I think it’s going to speed up his timing process.”

There is no timetable for Crawford to return to game action, said Valentine, who previously acknowledged it was “probably not realistic” to think Crawford would be ready for Opening Day..

Battle for the back end of the starting rotation: The Red Sox will learn more about what the back end of their starting rotation may look like every time a candidate makes a spring appearance.

That will happen again Thursday as Alfredo Aceves will make his first spring start for the Red Sox as they take on the St. Louis Cardinals at 2:35 p.m. at JetBlue Park. Daniel Bard is scheduled to appear in relief of Aceves.

The hope is for each to throw four innings. Valentine has not placed an immediate timetable on determining the fifth starter.

“I don’t have a favorite in the clubhouse or any of that stuff,” Valentine said. “It’s something that I want. I’m trying to see what it looks like. (I’m trying) to keep as open mind as possible in making those decisions.

“How long will it play out? The games and the innings will dictate that ... I’d say there’s a date over there probably two rounds (of appearances) from now that it would be relatively settled. It will sort itself out or ... what I would love to do is have it not sort itself out. That means we’ll have a lot of options. As the season goes on, we’ll probably use a lot of the options.”

When the notion was brought up that Bard was already penciled into the fourth starter position, Valentine said “that hasn’t been put in concrete yet in my mind. He’s pitching today so we will see him in another outing.”

* Sweeney doesn’t take Wednesday off: Outfielder Ryan Sweeney came in during Boston’s off day on Wednesday to receive treatment on his injured left quad. Sweeney left Monday’s home game against the Miami Marlins after feeling “a twinge” while in the field and at the plate.

“I’m glad I did that,” Sweeney said of spending part of Wednesday at the facility. “It feels better today than it did yesterday. It’s feeling better day by day.

“Nobody wants to be hurt. It’s just one of those things where I don’t want to push it because I’d rather have it be right now than during the season. After tomorrow, I’ll probably start hitting.”

Sweeney said he does not know when he will start running again.

* Miller to appear Friday: Andrew Miller is scheduled to appear in relief of Jon Lester during Friday’s game with the Minnesota Twins at JetBlue Park. He had some elbow stiffness last week in a minor league game but threw a side session earlier in the week and is feeling better.

“He threw the ball well on the side (session),” Valentine said. “He said he doesn’t know when the (injury) happened.”

* Iglesias healing: Shortstop Jose Iglesias could have played in Thursday’s game against the Cardinals but Valentine elected to give him an extra day as a precaution. Iglesias has been out of action since Sunday with a minor groin injury.

* Saltalamacchia out: Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia will miss Thursday’s game with what Valentine described as a “hip situation.” It sounded like Valentine did not expect him to be out long.

* Pitching schedule notes: New closer Andrew Bailey is scheduled to make his second appearance of the spring on Friday ... Daisuke Matsuzaka is scheduled to throw live batting practice on Friday ... Matt Albers, Mark Melancon, Tony Pena Jr. and Brandon Duckworth are all scheduled to throw in minor league games Thursday.