Carlos Delgado (back) exits game early

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- While Dustin Pedroia's brief rehab assignment in Pawtucket went well enough to propel the second baseman back to Boston, veteran first baseman Carlos Delgado might have suffered a setback in his quest to return to the majors.

Delgado, who hasn't played in the big leagues in 16 months because of a pair of surgical procedures on his right hip, had to come out of Sunday's game at McCoy Stadium because of stiffness in his lower back around his left hip.

He was lifted from the game after three innings, replaced at first base by Lars Anderson. Delgado batted once, whiffing on a weak swing at an 0-and-2 fastball that was away from the left-handed hitter.

Delgado signed a minor league contract with Boston on Aug. 7 after Kevin Youkilis was lost for the season because of thumb surgery. Delgado hasn't played in the majors since May 10, 2009, for the New York Mets.

He was playing in his fifth game for the PawSox, and it was his second start at first base. Delgado had served as the designated hitter in the three other games, including Saturday night.

"He felt a little discomfort in his back so we wanted to err on the side of caution," said Pawtucket manager Torey Lovullo. "He was honest with us. It's nothing more than that."

"My left side, lower back is a little stiff," said Delgado, 38, who has belted 473 career big-league homers.

"It bothered me enough that I couldn't rotate very well so I came out and got treatment," he said. "It's been sore the last couple of days. We didn't make much of it but it [got to a point] I had to come out. Hopefully I'll get [treatment], see where it is [Monday] and go from there."

Delgado didn't seem discouraged.

"You're not expecting things like to happen," Delgado said. "You want things to go smooth. You have to get through the kinks and get into playing shape."

Ironically, Lovullo had wanted to give Delgado the day off because it was a day game following a night game, and the Pawtucket manager didn't want to push him too hard. Delgado, though, told Lovullo he was "ready to go," so Delgado was in the lineup, batting cleanup.

"I had 16 months off," said Delgado before the game, explaining why he wanted to play on Sunday. "You want to play. I haven't done a lot for a period of time."

Delgado said the challenges for him have been physical in the field as well as finding his timing at the plate.

"When you're in a clinic rehabbing it's a controlled environment," said Delgado. "On the field you have to react to the ball. There may be a ball in the hole and you start for the ball and then have to get back to cver first base. That just takes a while.You have to keep working at it."

The same goes at the plate.

"My timing's not great. These are my first at-bats in a long time. I have to get my timing down," he said. "The more at-bats you get, the better you feel. It's not like turning a switch, but once you get it back it can come back pretty quick."

Delgado may have to wait a day or two, though, before resuming the effort to get his timing back at the plate, depending on how his left hip and lower back respond to treatment.