BOSTON -- The Red Sox are playing some of their best baseball of the season coming out of the All-Star break, winning both series and going 5-2 in seven games.
It started on the road against the Rays, with the Sox taking two out of three games at Tropicana Field. Returning to Fenway Park on Monday to open a seven-game homestand, Boston won three out of four against the White Sox.
So far, it's been a team effort. And it doesn't hurt that Boston welcomed back Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia from the disabled list all in the last week.
"We're finally getting healthy, our lineup top to bottom is as good as there is in the game," said outfielder Cody Ross, who has nine RBIs in his last two games. "Guys are getting on base, and that puts pressure on the opposing team. So hopefully we can keep rolling."
Thursday's 3-1 win over Chicago marked the first time this season Boston's lineup featured Ellsbury, Crawford and Pedroia. It's not all about them, though. First baseman Adrian Gonzalez has five straight multi-hit games, and Ross had three homers in his last two games entering Friday.
"When you look up and down our lineup there's a threat at every spot as far as getting on base, stealing a base, hitting a home run or just creating runs," Ross said. "It's a good feeling to have and a luxury."
The Red Sox have also benefited from strong starting pitching to begin the second half of the season. In four out of five wins, Boston has gotten a quality start.
"I think now they're healthy and they're feeling good about themselves, and I think that's a good way to get on a roll," said manager Bobby Valentine.
With heavy workload, Salty could benefit from rest
BOSTON -- The Red Sox believe a short rest could help catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia get back in a groove at the plate.
Saltalamacchia was out of the lineup for the third straight game on Friday against the Blue Jays, with Boston facing its third left-hander in as many nights in Aaron Laffey. The time away from the game also comes after a rough offensive stretch for the switch-hitter.
"He's dying to get back in there, so we'll see if he's recharged tomorrow," said manager Bobby Valentine on Friday.
In five games since the All-Star break, Saltalamacchia is 1-for-15 with eight strikeouts against two walks. He's struck out at least once in each of his last eight games dating back to July 6.
"[He's seen] tough pitches and [is] swinging at some pitches that really weren't hittable," Valentine said. "I think he will be more selective next time he gets out there and hit them the way that he can."
Saltalamacchia is hitless in his last 13 at-bats and is mired in a 1-for-24 slump over his last seven games. He leads Major League catchers with 17 home runs, but his .229 batting average is the lowest it's been since late April.
But working on his swing is not the main priority for a catcher in his first full season as a starter with the responsibility of overseeing Boston's pitching staff. That alone leaves less time for Saltalamacchia to tinker with his offense.
"He's also a switch-hitter, so he has a lot on his plate, working on both sides of the plate, working with the pitching staff and taking a real personal responsibility when things don't go well," Valentine said. "I think the one thing he has not shied away from is the idea that he is really responsible for everything that goes on out there with his pitching staff, and I think that's a burden as much as anything. It's his first year doing it full time, and I think he's figuring it out."
Kelly Shoppach has started in Saltalamacchia's place for the last three games. He hit a pinch-hit two-run homer in Tuesday's 7-5 loss to the White Sox but was 1-for-7 with four strikeouts in his last two games entering Friday.
Bailey progressing with bullpen sessions
BOSTON -- Andrew Bailey does not have a timetable for his return from the disabled list, but the reliever is past the thumb and forearm issues that have kept him from pitching for the Red Sox this year.
Bailey threw a bullpen session off a mound prior to Friday's game against the Blue Jays. He threw 35-40 pitches, working exclusively with his fastball and cutter.
"I don't think he has a health issue to deal with any longer," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He now just has a conditioning, a pitch buildup and a competition challenge ahead of him."
Next up in Bailey's progression will be another bullpen session on Sunday morning at Fenway Park. Valentine expects the reliever to throw 15 pitches of batting practice on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas, during a three-game series with the Rangers.
Fellow injured reliever Rich Hill is also progressing from a left elbow strain. The left-hander is throwing from flat ground. Valentine said Hill came out of a long-toss session on Friday "pain free." Hill has been on the DL since June 10.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.