ARLINGTON -- In the searing Texas heat, Red Sox right-hander Andrew Bailey took a key step in his comeback by throwing batting practice against teammates Pedro Ciriaco and Daniel Nava.

The plan is for Bailey to again face teammates on Saturday, and then start a Minor League rehab assignment.

"Everything went great," said Bailey. "I threw 20 pitches. Everything felt good -- fastball, cutter, curveball, changeup. It went well."

Bailey estimates he would need five to six Minor League outings before being ready to join the Red Sox.

Conceivably, he could be pitching for Boston by mid-August if there are no setbacks.

When the Red Sox traded Josh Reddick to the Oakland Athletics for Bailey in December, they envisioned he would be their closer. But that plan never took shape, thanks to Bailey being forced to undergo right thumb surgery the day before the regular season started.

"It was nice to see hitters in the box," Bailey said. "I'm just anxious to get back out there and help this team win. The thumb feels great, the forearm feels great. Now it's just a matter of getting back with hitters in the box in game situations. Hopefully soon, I'll be back with the team."

Lester, Dice-K have encouraging sessions

ARLINGTON -- Three days after the worst start of his career, Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester got back on the horse on Wednesday, throwing an extended side session before Boston's game against the Rangers.

To help make it more realistic, Lester had some teammates step in the box, though they didn't swing.

Lester's big test will come on Saturday afternoon, when he pitches against the Yankees in New York.

"Lester had a long throwing session and said he felt great, and to me, he looked great," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who is on the disabled list with a neck injury, also threw a bullpen session that got positive reviews.

"Dice-K threw the best that he's thrown in a long time," said Valentine.

Matsuzaka last pitched for the Red Sox on July 2. He might advance to facing some hitters the next time he throws. Valentine said he still needs to confer with the training staff.

Crawford not likely to DH for Red Sox

ARLINGTON -- Though Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine thinks it's probably best at this point to remove Carl Crawford for defense in the late innings of close games, he doesn't think that using him at designated hitter is a good alternative, even with David Ortiz on the disabled list.

"I don't think so," Valentine said. "We've got to get Carl playing and into the swing of things. It's not like there wasn't a thought of it. Just thought, and negated."

Valentine also likes being able to get Pedro Ciriaco in the lineup.

"And I think Pedro offers a little something offensively that I like in there," Valentine said. "Carl DH-ing -- that means Pedro wouldn't."

Crawford has been open about the fact he will likely need to have surgery on his left (throwing) elbow once the season ends.

As he continues to play, will Crawford gain enough confidence in his arm that Valentine will be able to keep him out there for the whole game?

"I'm just playing it by ear," Valentine said. "This is all a learning experience. We'll just learn as we go. Just trying to do the smart thing and, again, not put anybody in a position to fail. Putting them in a position to succeed."