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Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Farrell hopes Ellsbury plays Wednesday

By Tony Lee, Special to ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- The Red Sox are hopeful center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury is able to return to the lineup Wednesday night against the Texas Rangers or soon thereafter.

Manager John Farrell said Ellsbury, who has missed four straight games with a groin injury suffered Thursday in Philadelphia, should avoid the disabled list as long as he can prove very soon that the injury is a nonissue.

“We’re hopeful that this takes a complete turn over the next couple of days, and that’s not ruling out him being in the lineup tomorrow [Wednesday],” Farrell said. “We had to get him through some functional testing today [Tuesday] and then see how he responds to that and how he feels tomorrow, so tomorrow is still a possibility for him to be back in center field.”

Ellsbury went through drills in the outfield with a trainer and fellow injured outfielder Shane Victorino on Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park.

Ellsbury suffered the injury near the end of his record-setting performance against the Phillies, against whom he stole five bases. He had been on fire before the injury, helping to turn around what was a dismal May. Beginning with the May 26 game against Cleveland that he ended with a walk-off two-run double, Ellsbury was 11-for-23 with four doubles, one triple and seven steals in the five-game span prior to the injury.

While Ellsbury nears a return, Victorino worked out at about 80 percent Tuesday as he continues to nurse a left hamstring strain. He is eligible to come off the DL but will not commence a rehab assignment until later in the week, Farrell said.

Third baseman Will Middlebrooks is beginning his rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket on Tuesday. Farrell indicated that Middlebrooks, who is out with a back strain, probably will play for the PawSox through the week before being re-evaluated.

Barring any major setbacks, Middlebrooks might be activated when he is eligible Saturday. The struggling second-year slugger was hitting .201 with eight homers and 21 RBIs in 46 games before landing on the DL on May 24.

In other pregame news:

* Starter Ryan Dempster toes the rubber Tuesday, looking to build on a solid outing against Philadelphia on May 28. After giving up 15 runs in 12 2/3 innings over a three-start stretch, the veteran right-hander limited the Phillies to two runs in seven frames. Unfortunately, Cliff Lee was on the mound for Philadelphia, and Dempster fell to 0-4 in his past five starts. That’s not what Farrell is focused on.

“The biggest key between the last start and the previous three starts is he was able to get over the front side of his delivery, and what I mean by that is the timing is better,” Farrell said. “He was on top of the baseball throwing downhill. It gave him the normal shape to his split and his slider. He’s going to need that against [Texas]. I think most importantly he comes into this start with a solid one under his belt, even though it was a low-run loss to Cliff Lee, but we’ll need the same type of performance here tonight.”

Dempster, who finished the 2012 season with Texas after being acquired in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, has never started against the Rangers.

* While Jose Iglesias has sparkled at the plate after the shift from minor league shortstop to major league third baseman, regular shortstop Stephen Drew has hit a bit of a funk. He is 7-for-45 (.156) with 12 strikeouts since May 20, the day he returned from a brief layoff due to a back injury.

“There’s been stretches of streakiness,” Farrell said of Drew’s struggles. “There’s been times when he’s been pitched with a constant mix where it’s gotten him out on his front foot. He’s faced a number of left-handers in that mix as well that have kind of negated his power, particularly to the pull side. Honestly, there’s a guy that’s continuing to work at gaining some consistency.”

Drew was in a 20-for-63 (.317) surge before the back issue.