Farrell on statuses of Victorino, Middlebrooks

BOSTON -- Shane Victorino has had a whirlwind of a rehab. While recovering from a strained hamstring sustained in June, he slipped a disc in his back. While trying to get to a game for Double-A Portland on Saturday, he got stuck in traffic.

On Thursday night with Triple-A Pawtucket, Victorino took a major step in the right direction. He looked good on the bases, scoring a run in the sixth by going hard from first to third on a hit-and-run play and coming home when the throw got away. The following inning, he singled and scored.

Victorino went 2-for-4, both ground-ball singles, and he played all nine innings in the outfield during a 5-2 PawSox win. Before Thursday, Victorino was 1-for-30 in 11 rehab games during a pair of DL stints this season.

If the outfielder starts again Friday, which Red Sox manager John Farrell said was dependent on how Victorino felt after Thursday's game, he could return this weekend during Boston's three-game set against Kansas City.

"Ideally, we see him play back-to-back games before we would activate him," Farrell said. "So how he comes through tonight has a lot of bearing on that. And ideally he's back in the [PawSox] lineup tomorrow."

Limited to just 21 games this season, Victorino has a slash line of .242/.276/.352. He missed the first 21 with a hamstring strain, then a recurrence of the injury on May 23 sent him back to the DL. During rehab with Pawtucket on June 23, he slipped a disc in his back while running the bases, and the assignment had been shut down.

Middlebrooks to resume rehab at 3B, not OF

CIN@BOS: Middlebrooks charges, makes a strong throw

BOSTON -- Will Middlebrooks will move his focus back to playing third base after the club had intended to get him some work in the outfield while he rehabbed with Triple-A Pawtucket.

Middlebrooks hasn't played for the Red Sox since breaking his right index finger on May 16. Manager John Farrell originally said he would like Middlebrooks to try the outfield because Boston's infield, especially with Stephen Drew returning to the club, was overcrowded.

That, however, was before Brock Holt proved he could play anywhere on the field and Mookie Betts arrived in Boston and played exclusively in the outfield. Not to mention Shane Victorino could finally be nearing a return.

"Our intention when he resumes his rehab tomorrow is to remain at third base," Farrell said Thursday. "If there's a point in time where we expose him to left field, that will probably take some more discussion in terms of where we had the intent prior. That's before Mookie came up, that's before [Victorino] was getting close to us. So third base will be the focus at this point."

The 25-year-old injured his wrist while sliding last Friday and hasn't played since. Because the All-Star break counts toward 20 days of his rehab, he'll be recalled by Boston, then sent down to begin another rehab assignment Friday. Middlebrooks will play exclusively third base when he begins playing again with Pawtucket, but that means his path back to the Majors is hindered by Xander Bogaerts and Drew.

Middlebrooks has played 17 games for Pawtucket this season, batting .232/.283/.339. In 21 games with the Red Sox, he's hit .197/.305/.324.

Worth noting

• After three games against the Royals, the Red Sox will play their next 13 games against divisional opponents. They enter Friday 9 1/2 games back of the first-place Orioles, tied for last in the AL East with Tampa Bay and nine games under .500.

Boston will play four at Toronto and three at Tampa Bay, then start a six-game homestand with three-game series against the Blue Jays and Yankees. So there's surely some added significance to that stretch, which ends on Aug. 3.

"Given where we are right now, yes," manager John Farrell said. "That's not to add any pressure. That's to say that there's some additional significance to the games when you play the teams ahead of you."

• Farrell said there's been a lot of discussion about giving Anthony Ranaudo a shot to start for the Red Sox, if a starter is needed at any point this season. Brandon Workman, in Triple-A now, would likely be the first choice, but Ranaudo would likely be next. The 6-foot-7, LSU product has posted a 2.62 ERA and .213 average against in 19 starts with Pawtucket this season.

"He's been talked about a lot," Farrell said of Ranaudo, the club's No. 8 prospect. "The reports have been strong. He's been in the discussion if a starter was needed. He's doing everything he can to impact that."