Ellsbury should be back Saturday

BOSTON -- Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who has missed the team's last 36 games with a hairline fracture of four ribs, will travel with the team to Philadelphia on Friday and is expected to be activated Saturday, manager Terry Francona said Thursday night.

With Sox GM Theo Epstein watching, Ellsbury went 3-for-4 with a double, stole a base and scored a run while playing for the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs on a rehab assignment Thursday afternoon. Francona said Ellsbury had to slide and dive back into first a couple of times and reported no problems.

"Jake is going to go with us and we'll probably activate him Saturday," said Francona, who spoke by phone with the player Thursday night. "He felt really good. He wants to go. He's ready.''

Ellsbury has not played since being kneed in the chest by third baseman Adrian Beltre when the players collided while giving chase to a foul ball in the ninth inning of a game in Kansas City on April 11. The injury was initially described as a bruise, and it was thought Ellsbury would be back quickly, but when he continued to experience pain and difficulty breathing, subsequent tests showed the hairline fractures.

The 26-year-old outfielder, who led the majors with 70 stolen bases in 2009, was hitting .333 (10-for-30) with steals in his only two attempts in the six games he played this season.

"He gives us a different element, the kind of game-changing speed teams need to be aware of,'' Francona said. "All the things, the headaches we have when guys like [Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford] are on base. He gives us certainly a different look than when he's not in there. Saying that, I think the guys in there have done a really good job.''

Boston's other injured outfielder, Mike Cameron, who has missed 31 games (one April 15 with a kidney stone, then the last 30 with an abdominal tear), also played in Portland Thursday and had a double in four trips. He will start again Friday in center field in Portland before being reevaluated, Francona said.