Mike Napoli returns to lineup

Updated: April 17, 2014, 8:00 PM ET
By Gordon Edes | ESPNBoston.com

CHICAGO -- After sitting out one game with a dislocated ring finger on his left hand, Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli is back in the starting lineup, batting cleanup against White Sox ace Chris Sale.

The Red Sox can use Napoli's bat. They're hitting a collective .173 (36 for 208) while losing four of the first six games on this trip and have scored just 18 runs. Six of those runs came Wednesday night, when White Sox pitchers walked 15 batters but stranded 16 runners on base before Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a two-run double off a position player, utilityman Leury Garcia, in the 14th to give the Red Sox a 6-4 win.

This will be the first time the Red Sox will be facing Sale, a two-time All-Star as a starter. The last time he pitched against them was in relief in 2011, and the Red Sox collectively have just three hits in 25 at-bats against him. No Red Sox player has more than one hit off him, and Jonny Gomes has the only home run. Napoli is 1-for-6 against him in his career. Sale has never faced Bradley, Dustin Pedroia, David Ross or Xander Bogaerts.

Pedroia returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing two games and was a force, reaching base four times on a double, an infield single, and two walks. He scored three runs and stole a base, sliding headfirst into second despite an inflamed left wrist.

Pedroia's double led to the first run the Red Sox have scored in the first inning this season, coming in the team's 15th game. The double was also the first extra-base hit the Red Sox have had in the first inning.

Bogaerts, who was installed in the No. 2 hole on Sunday and will hit second again on Thursday, reached base five times. He singled in Pedroia in the first, was hit by a pitch twice and walked twice.

Closer Koji Uehara, who has not pitched since last Wednesday against the Rangers because of stiffness in the back of his right shoulder, is available to close Thursday, manager John Farrell said.

Outfielder Shane Victorino will work out with the Red Sox upon the team's return to Boston on Friday, Farrell said, and the plan is for him to head out on a three-game rehab assignment, most likely in Pawtucket. The plan is for Victorino to play Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, and at that point the team will decide whether to activate him. There is a chance Victorino will be back before the end of the Yankees' series. Pawtucket does not play this Sunday because of Easter; the PawSox will have a doubleheader Saturday.

Infielder Will Middlebrooks, who is eligible to come off the DL on Sunday but has yet to go out on rehab assignment, was sent back to Boston Thursday with a 102 degree temperature and other flu-like symptoms, Farrell said.

The Red Sox continue to have problems coming up with hits with runners in scoring position. They were 3-for-17 Wednesday, and come into Thursday's game batting .192 with RISP (24 for 125).

Gordon Edes

Red Sox reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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