Sox breaking good as Yankees visit

BOSTON -- Things the Boston Red Sox did on their All-Star break:

• Newly acquired Matt Thornton, who had flown from Philadelphia to Oakland after being traded by the Chicago White Sox, flew from Oakland to Chicago, packed up some stuff, said his goodbyes to U.S. Cellular Field as he drove past, and kept on driving all the way to Boston (he overnighted along the way), setting up the Fenway neighborhood apartment in which he and his family will stay the rest of the summer.

• Jonny Gomes hung out on the Cape for a few days with his family. No one kicked sand in his face.

Dustin Pedroia went to New York for the All-Star Game and got pranked by Detroit's Miguel Cabrera in pregame introductions, when Cabrera, while high-fiving everybody else in the lineup, reached down to shoe level when he got to Dusty and passed. (Thought: Even counting on Pedroia's good nature, that is one guy it's best not to slight, even in jest. Pedroia has had a sequoia-sized chip on his shoulder from the first day he laced on spikes.)

• Rookie Brandon Workman, who took a no-hitter into the seventh inning of his first big league start Sunday, took some time responding to all the messages that blew up his cell phone afterward.

• A stoked John W. Henry went on the radio talking up his ballclub, the owner telling WEEI that he thinks Jacoby Ellsbury is a "tremendous ballplayer" and that the Sox are interested in re-signing him. Just a guess, but we suspect if 'EEI checked its archives it'd find sound bites of Henry calling Johnny Damon a "tremendous ballplayer," or words to that effect, and pledging his desire to bring him back. In play in both cases, of course: agent Scott Boras.

• Third-base coach Brian Butterfield watched some game video. (We did not confirm that first-hand, but since Butterfield, maestro of the defensive shift, always watches game video, we feel fairly safe in reporting that.)

Alfredo Aceves, outrighted to Pawtucket by the Red Sox, got in touch with the players' association, presumably to learn if he has grounds to file a grievance. Manager John Farrell insisted again Thursday that nothing untoward happened while Aceves was in Seattle last week to prompt the team to jettison him, saying the decision was "performance-related."

"We saw Alfredo from this point forward contributing out of the bullpen," Farrell said. "While he did a great job in the spot starts that he made -- and that's not to say he might not find himself in the same situation, coming up and making a spot start -- we felt like with Workman's addition and [Drake] Britton's addition, we're at the point of finding out about guys internally, particularly in the bullpen."

The Sox could have just optioned Aceves, instead of outrighting him to Pawtucket and taking him off the 40-man roster. What are they planning in his place?

Stephen Drew spent Thursday night as DH in Portland, the first night of what is planned to be a two-day rehab stint before he joins the Sox in time for Saturday's game against the Yankees. Drew had a double and RBI for the Sea Dogs on Thursday night, with the plan being for him to play shortstop Friday night.

Farrell is eager to have Drew back, contrary to the supposition of Drew's detractors that he has done little to aid the cause so far this season.

"We're anxiously awaiting Stephen to get back to us," Farrell said. "The way he was swinging the bat seven to 10 days prior to his hamstring injury, he was really starting to get on track. He's a well-above-average shortstop. Very dependable and sure-handed. When you consider our infield defense, he'll make it better when he gets back. That puts Iggy [Jose Iglesias] at third. Stephen has three errors, Pedey one. We've got a top-flight infield defense."

Clay Buchholz, following in the footsteps of departed teammate Josh Beckett, hosted a charity bowling tournament Thursday night, a very nice thing to do. But he would have made Sox fans a lot happier had he been able to throw the bullpen that was scheduled for him to throw Thursday -- until he felt soreness again Sunday in Oakland. Buchholz, shut down with shoulder bursitis, is scheduled to be re-examined Friday and may undergo another MRI. That's not what Farrell had in mind last weekend, when he responded to a question about whether the Sox needed another starting pitcher this way:

"I think we're very in tune with where Clay is in this situation, and he's making very steady progress. A healthy Clay Buchholz is probably as good as any starter we could ever mortgage the future on. We're really looking forward to him returning.

"He's getting there. He's basically in the reconditioning phase. We fully expect him to return, and if he picks up where he left off, he'll help any rotation, particularly ours."

Well, turns out that he's not in the reconditioning phase, but stuck in the sore shoulder phase. Future, prepare to be mortgaged? That will be the most intriguing question to watch between now and the July 31 trading deadline -- and beyond. Remember, 2012's megadeal with the Los Angeles Dodgers came in late August.

The Sox love their young talent, but they have a good number of quality prospects potentially available to deal (check out Mike Andrews' great rundown of the trading chips). When a team reaches this stage of the season with the most wins in baseball, management owes the players who got them this far to do what they can to take them the rest of the way. That is certainly how the Sox have operated in the Henry/Werner/Lucchino years. Besides, the owners loved being knee-deep in last August's talks with the Dodgers. You don't think they've been making discreet inquiries about Phillies ace Cliff Lee?

The games resume Friday, with the Yankees' first visit to Boston in 2013, nearly 100 games into the season. The Sox will miss A-Rod, who is due to return next week, but catch the heart of the Yankees' rotation -- Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia -- which has kept the Yanks in this despite all their injuries. Derek Jeter? Doubtful. Great theater? Guaranteed.

And it doesn't let up. The Rays, winners of 14 of 16 just before the break, come in for four games. After losing 9 of 12 to the Sox this season, they're looking to right that imbalance. The Sox then go to Baltimore for three against the Orioles, who are in this thing for keeps.

"Whether it's New York, whether it's Tampa, Baltimore, whoever it might be, these are going to be strongly contested games," Farrell said. "We just came off a very competitive road trip and a really challenging series in Oakland. We fully expected that. We have the utmost respect for what the Yankees are going to bring in this series and know that that's going to be a challenge in and of itself.

"But I think the most important thing for us is that we get off the road, we get back to this ballpark and feed off the energy of the people here in Fenway. We're looking forward to the start of this homestand."