BOSTON -- Red Sox manager John Farrell said he wanted to make sure Will Middlebrooks got his timing back at the plate before the third baseman returns to the big leagues.
If Middlebrooks' performance through three games with Triple-A Pawtucket is any indication, he is ready to go.
Recovering from a back injury, Middlebrooks homered for the second time in three games Thursday. His homer was the only hit of the night in four at-bats, but he is 4-for-9 with two homers and six RBIs in his three rehab games.
"Very encouraging," Farrell said Thursday afternoon. "Some of the things that we've highlighted with Will, he showed [Wednesday]. Obviously with the home run to right-center field. And as we stated before, when he's in the right place, doing what he's capable of, he's proven he's a Major League player.
"A right-handed bat that's potent, has the potential to be potent and has showed it throughout most of the time last year, and there was obviously inconsistencies here throughout this year, but like I said, I think it's important to be able to use this time and this opportunity to get some momentum going before he comes to us."
Middlebrooks, who hit .201 in 46 games before going on the disabled list, could return to Boston's roster Saturday against the Angels at Fenway Park.
Shane Victorino, who has dealt with a back injury and a hamstring strain, made his first rehab start Thursday and also went deep. He finished 2-for-4 with a home run and a strikeout. Victorino was batting .283 before going on the DL.
Ellsbury stays hot in return from groin injury
BOSTON -- After a five-game absence, Jacoby Ellsbury picked up right where he left off Thursday night against the Rangers at Fenway Park.
Returning to his customary leadoff spot and playing center field, Ellsbury went 4-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored, the last of which tied the game in the seventh inning of Boston's 6-3 win.
"Obviously he's not running at full speed, but the way he's swinging the bat, he continued that here tonight, both against good left-handed pitching and the right-handers that came in there," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "It's really good to have him back in the lineup."
Ellsbury had been in the midst of his best offensive stretch of the season when he suffered a left groin injury while setting a Red Sox record with five stolen bases on May 30 against the Phillies. In the five-game stretch before the injury, he went 11-for-23 (.478).
The club will continue to monitor Ellsbury on a daily basis for a while and give him a rest if needed.
"It's something that we'll continue to talk with him about as he comes out of each game, monitoring it," said Farrell. "We kind of left it in his hands as far as how aggressive he'll be on the basepaths. But the fact he was at least able to show some explosiveness on the field yesterday -- otherwise we wouldn't have put him in there. We don't want to restrict him completely of any kind of base-stealing opportunities. But all things considered, we'll balance all that and monitor how he's coming out of each game."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Michael Periatt is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.