BOSTON -- Daisuke Matsuzaka is ready to shift from the rehab phase of his comeback to the pitching portion.
The right-hander will pitch for Class A Advanced Salem on Monday, starting the clock on a 30-day rehab assignment, which means he could be activated by the Red Sox by May 23, slightly ahead of his original schedule.
Matsuzaka underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last June, and he has seemingly been ahead of schedule throughout his comeback.
The plan is for Matsuzaka to make five starts in the Minor Leagues before joining Boston's starting rotation.
"Dice-K feels really good," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "The conversation with him is that he's ready to start dealing with competition rather than rehabilitation. We will still monitor his pitches. He won't have a 30-pitch inning. He says he feels good."
Meanwhile, left fielder Carl Crawford remains at extended spring camp, where he will make another start on Friday. Crawford is still serving as the designated hitter.
Shortly after he gains clearance to play the outfield, Crawford will probably be sent up to a Minor League affiliate.
Sizzling Sweeney elevated to two-hole
BOSTON -- For all of the lineup combinations that Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine thought of and executed during Spring Training, one he never envisioned was batting Ryan Sweeney second.
But with Carl Crawford and Jacoby Ellsbury both on the disabled list, Valentine has had to adapt on the fly a bit, and Sweeney indeed batted second for Friday's series opener against the Yankees.
Dustin Pedroia, Boston's usual No. 2 hitter, batted third, with Adrian Gonzalez hitting cleanup and David Ortiz batting fifth.
Mike Aviles again took Ellsbury's leadoff spot. Sweeney has been Boston's best hitter early in the season; entering Friday's game, he was hitting .424.
"The grouping goes a little further, but obviously, Ryan's been hitting the ball and being on base as much as anyone," Valentine said. "The pitches it seems have been working for him, he might be in a more favorable position to get them.
"Mike's an aggressive hitter. At times, he's had very good at-bats, where he's extended the at-bat. I don't want to take the aggressiveness away from him. Sweeney is a very patient guy, so there's not a problem with Mike having a quick at-bat, with Sweeney coming up, and taking a pitch, not having Dustin sitting there, thinking he might be the guy to do that. So that kind of grouping works a little, I hope.
"It wasn't one of the ones I was planning in Spring Training, believe me. I had 33 games in Spring Training, and this wasn't one of the groupings I had thought about."
Valentine in awe of Fenway's history
BOSTON -- Sure, he is a baseball historian, as well as a manager. But Bobby Valentine is still in his early days with the Red Sox, and he's now getting a front-and-center look at what Fenway Park means to people.
On Thursday, an off-day for Boston, the club opened Fenway Park free of charge.
Flocks and flocks of people came out all day to observe the fabled ballpark on the eve of the game celebrating its 100th anniversary.
"I stayed around a while," said Valentine. "I was amazed. I know there's probably a better word to describe what it was. I don't know what it is. The park has a magic to it. It's the baseball land of Oz. People dream about this place."