Dustin Pedroia to play in rehab games

TORONTO -- Dustin Pedroia will be sent out for "a couple of games" on a rehab assignment, said Red Sox manager Terry Francona, who did not rule out this weekend, depending on medical clearance.

Francona developed that upbeat assessment on the injured Red Sox second baseman after what he called "by far his best day" running sprints and fielding ground balls.

"He simulated coming out of the batter's box,'' Francona said. "He was close to 100 percent speedwise. No limp, no favoring it. He had that little burst. It was very exciting.''

Francona said that Pedroia will run some cuts Wednesday, and assuming he comes through that as well as he did Tuesday, the next step will be for the medical staff to look at him.

Pedroia told reporters he expected to be examined Friday in Boston, and if all goes well he'll be in Pawtucket on Saturday. Francona was unwilling to commit that far, saying he preferred to see how things go Wednesday. "But we're not going to slow him down,'' the manager said.

The tentative date for Pedroia's return to the Red Sox remains Aug. 17, when the Red Sox begin a long homestand against the Angels.

The 2008 AL MVP fractured his left foot when fouled a ball off his leg during a June 25 loss to San Francisco. Pedroia is batting .292 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs in 73 games this year.

Pedroia said he still feels weakness in the foot but had no problems defensively.

"Ground balls is fine, the only thing that's tough is running," he said. "I'll be smart about it during the game and pick and choose when I need to run."

This is the first stint on the DL in the big leagues for the 26-year-old Pedroia, who was rewarded by the Red Sox with a $40.5 million, six-year contract before the 2009 season.

"I know the rest of the way is going to be tough but we're at a point right now where we're trying to make a run and get in the playoffs," Pedroia said. "I know I'm not going to be as fast as I was earlier in the year but I'll make that up in the offseason."

Pedroia, who ran in spikes for the first time Tuesday, said he will wear extra padding inside his shoes at all times and special protection on the outside of his shoes when he bats.

Catcher Jason Varitek, who broke a bone when he fouled a ball off his right foot on June 30, also ran Tuesday and is about seven to 10 days behind Pedroia, Francona said.

Left-hander Hideki Okajima, out since Aug. 6 with a strained right hamstring, was set to begin a throwing program Tuesday, while outfielder Mike Cameron, who has not played since July 30 with a torn abdominal muscle, took batting practice before the game.

Gordon Edes is ESPNBoston.com's Red Sox reporter. He has covered the Red Sox for 12 years and has reported on baseball for 25 years. Ask a question for his next mailbag here. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.