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06/02/12 1:46 PM ET

Pedroia takes big step toward return to lineup

TORONTO -- Dustin Pedroia took the first vital step toward a potential return to the lineup when he took batting practice on the field before Saturday's game against the Blue Jays.

The second baseman was diagnosed with a torn adductor muscle in his right thumb earlier this week and hasn't played since Monday. Both he and the Red Sox are hopeful that a stint on the disabled list can be avoided.

Pedroia took BP with a specially fitted brace on the thumb and appeared comfortable, spraying the ball to all parts of the field.

How did he feel it went?

"How did I look?" Pedroia said with a smile as he walked back to the clubhouse.

Manager Bobby Valentine said that the key will be whether the thumb swells up as a result of Saturday's efforts.

"If there's still anything in there, you'd think there would be swelling from the vibration," Valentine said.

Pedroia has also looked fine during defensive drills, including throwing.

"When he played catch, he played catch OK," Valentine said. "When he took ground balls, he took ground balls with the brace on, so there will be a little trouble doing that -- that was just to make sure the ball didn't hit him while he was taking ground balls. He has pretty good strength. He has the same strength in his right hand as in his left hand."

The earliest Pedroia could play is Tuesday, when the Red Sox open a homestand against the Orioles. If he isn't ready by then, he could be placed on the disabled list, a stint that could be backdated to May 29.

"The decision hasn't been made," Valentine said. "We're going to see how he gets through the weekend, where he is progress-wise."

Red-hot Nava stays in, will rest on Sunday

TORONTO -- On Saturday afternoon, for the 23rd time in the 23 games he's been on the roster, Daniel Nava made the start in left field against Toronto.

Manager Bobby Valentine thought about giving Nava Saturday off, but that was tough to do after the switch-hitter belted four hits in Friday's victory.

The latest plan is for Nava to sit out Sunday afternoon's finale. The Red Sox have an off-day on Monday, which would give Nava a chance to get a bit of a break before the start of the homestand on Tuesday.

Nava has reached safely in 20 of his first 22 games with the Red Sox. He has a .444 on-base percentage and a .543 slugging percentage.

It has been a dramatic resurgence for Nava, who was designated for assignment on May 20, 2011, and returned to Triple-A Pawtucket five days later when no other team claimed him.

Nava was not on Boston's 40-man roster in Spring Training and didn't receive an invite to Major League camp. He was all but off the radar, only to hit his way back on to it.

The low of being designated for assignment, believe it or not, might be the biggest reason Nava is back now. It changed his mentality.

"It doesn't get worse than hitting .190 and getting taken off the roster," Nava said. "I try to learn from that and approach every game and every opportunity. I'm just going to relax and have fun."

Prior trying to be latest feel-good story

TORONTO -- The Red Sox have already had some unlikely stories unfold this season. Scott Podsednik and Daniel Nava didn't play in the Major Leagues at all in 2011, and both have come up with key hits of late.

Now there is right-hander Mark Prior, the former ace with the Cubs, who hasn't pitched in the Majors since 2006. The Red Sox signed him to a Minor League contract a few weeks back, and he was assigned to Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday.

Prior is trying to make it back to the bigs as a relief pitcher after sustaining a barrage of injuries that road-blocked his once-promising career.

"He's made constant progress," said manager Bobby Valentine. "People have liked his attitude and his throwing ability."

Despite how long Prior has been out of the Major Leagues, he is still just 31.

Prior was an 18-game winner for the 2003 Cubs -- the team that came to within one win of going to the World Series.

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.