OF Carl Crawford endures setback

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford has been removed from his minor league rehab assignment with a mild left groin strain.

Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said Crawford felt "a little twinge" when he hit a triple during Thursday's rehab game with the Double-A Portland Sea Dogs. He was set to come off the disabled list in time for the first series after the All-Star break on Friday against his former team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

"He's taking a couple of days off from hitting and playing, but he's going to go right back in and start hitting again soon in a game," Valentine said.

The decision likely will delay Crawford's return to the Red Sox lineup until the start of a homestand on July 16. Playing his first game at Fenway would be better for him than playing his first games of the season on the artificial surface at Tropicana Field.

The delay also will give him a chance to appear in a few more minor league games next weekend before he returns.

Crawford had been recovering from elbow and wrist injuries. He told ESPNBoston.com earlier this week that if he can't handle the pain in the elbow, he'll "probably" have surgery to repair a sprained ulnar collateral ligament after the season. He has told friends, a baseball source told ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes on Saturday, that doctors have said he will need the operation.

"That is false," general manager Ben Cherington said in an email late Saturday afternoon. "It's a possibility down the road, but plenty of position players play with UCL injuries."

Meanwhile, fellow rehabbing outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury will play for Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday at McCoy Stadium. He went 1 for 4 with a double and a run scored for the Sea Dogs on Friday night. Overall, he's 4 for 19 with two doubles, a home run, three RBIs, four runs scored and four walks in six rehab games.

In other injury news, Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz is scheduled to make a 40-pitch rehab start for the PawSox on Sunday at McCoy against Syracuse. The right-hander tossed back-to-back light bullpen sessions in the past two days and said he's feeling good and ready for his rehab start.

He's hoping it'll be brief and efficient.

"Just the necessary thing I want to get out of it," Buchholz said. "Obviously getting out of there and seeing live hitters and just getting back on the mound for a couple of innings. When I talked to Bobby, I didn't want to do a rehab deal and if the (minor league affiliates) were on the road I didn't feel like the travel would be necessary for it, but since it's a 45-minute hike (to Pawtucket), it'll probably be the best thing for me to get out there and have my first start back after the break not be the first time I've started in a month."

Buchholz has been on the DL since suffering a gastrointestinal bleed that resulted in a five-day hospital stay. If everything goes well, he's in line to pitch in the first series after the All-Star break against the Rays. He last pitched on June 19.

Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks (hamstring) is running, taking ground balls and hitting in the cage. After hitting in the cage during Friday's game, he reported no setbacks.

Even though he wants to play at some point in this series, Valentine explained he would rather give it an extra day for precautionary reasons.

"He's close," Valentine said.

Middlebrooks was not in the starting lineup for Game 2 of Saturday's doubleheader against the New York Yankees.

Before Saturday, Middlebrooks has missed the last four games with the injury.

Elsewhere, the Red Sox activated outfielder Ryan Sweeney from the disabled list and he started in center Saturday night against the Yanks. Ryan Kalish was optioned to to Triple-A to make room for Sweeney.

Sweeney was placed on the 15-day DL on June 17 with inflammation in his left big toe. He played in two rehab games for Double-A Portland and went 1 for 7. Kalish was called up from Triple-A Pawtucket on June 17, and hit .217 with five RBIs in 15 games with the Red Sox.

Overall, Sweeney entered Saturday hitting .292 with 13 RBIs in 53 games for the Red Sox this season, his first in Boston.