SEATTLE -- The Red Sox will get a vital piece to their rotation back on Saturday night, when Josh Beckett returns from the disabled list and pitches against the Mariners.
The righty last pitched on June 11 against the Marlins before being shut down with shoulder inflammation.
At the time the Red Sox decided to put Beckett on the DL, they mentioned he was having some strength deficit issues in his shoulder as well as inflammation.
Did the time off fix all those issues?
"It's hard for me to tell," said manager Bobby Valentine. "I think he's better than he was, and he was pretty good when he stopped pitching."
In Beckett's last start on June 11, he gave up four runs in the first inning but didn't give up a hit over his last five frames.
For the season, he is 4-7 with a 4.14 ERA in 12 starts. Beckett has pitched better than his numbers indicate. His win total can be partially attributed to the fact he has the lowest run-support average (4.71) of anyone on the staff with at least 10 starts. Beckett's ERA is inflated by two starts he got shelled in -- one in Detroit, the other at Fenway against the Indians.
"Well, if he's healthy, I expect a good performance," Valentine said. "It seems like he's very healthy and has good spirits. Josh is a great pitcher. I expect him to go out there and give us a good outing."
Ellsbury gets a hit in Minors rehab opener
SEATTLE -- For the first time since April 13, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury played in a baseball game on Friday. The venue was Fort Myers, Fla., for a Gulf Coast League Game, and Ellsbury went 1-for-4 with an RBI and a walk while serving as the designated hitter.
"He got through the performance without incident," said manager Bobby Valentine.
Ellsbury had been sidelined with a partially dislocated right shoulder. Carl Crawford played in his fourth Gulf Coast League game on Friday, going 0-for-2 with a run and two walks.
Valentine hasn't received word yet on when Ellsbury and Crawford will graduate to a higher level in the Minors. Neither player is expected to join the Red Sox before the All-Star break.
Back in Boston, right-hander Clay Buchholz is also making progress. Hospitalized with esophigatis last weekend, Buchholz is back on his feet and even did some light throwing at Fenway Park on Friday, as well as some other exercises.
There's no timetable on when Buchholz will return from the disabled list.
Bard struggles yet again at Triple-A Pawtucket
SEATTLE -- Though he now has the comfort in knowing he will return to the Red Sox as a relief pitcher, Daniel Bard continues to struggle for Triple-A Pawtucket.
Pitching against Charlotte on Friday night, Bard lasted just one-third of an inning, giving up a hit and two runs. His command continued to be a big problem, as he walked three and hit a batter.
Bard has a 7.15 ERA in nine outings for Pawtucket. He was optioned by the Red Sox on June 5.
Red Sox outfielder Scott Podsednik, who is on the disabled list with a left groin strain, started his rehab for the PawSox on Friday, going 0-for-3 as the designated hitter.
Wakefield to make NESN debut on Saturday
SEATTLE -- A fixture on the Fenway Park pitcher's mound for 17 years, Tim Wakefield will resurface in a different role beginning on Saturday night, when he makes his debut as a NESN studio analyst.
Wakefield will work with host Tom Caron and Hall of Famer Jim Rice during the pregame show at 9 p.m. ET for Boston's game against the Seattle Mariners.
The knuckleballer won his 200th game last September and retired at the start of Spring Training.
"Tim Wakefield has been an integral part of the fabric of the Red Sox and the New England community for the past 17 years," said NESN president and CEO Sean McGrail. "We are extremely happy to add Tim to our all-star lineup of studio analysts and believe that he will bring a unique perspective to our coverage with his knowledge of the team and the rest of the league."