The Boston Red Sox may have Jacoby Ellsbury back in the lineup this evening, as they kick off the second half of their season against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Ellsbury hasn't played for Boston since an April 14 game against Tampa Bay that saw him dislocate his right shoulder while trying to break up a double play. He was hitting just .192 with three RBI in seven games at the time of the injury.
He could be activated in time for tonight's contest. He has played in eight minor league games spread across three different levels of the Red Sox' farm system and is batting .185 (5-for-27) with one homer and three RBI in his rehab games.
Having Ellsbury back would certainly help a Red Sox team that went into the break at 43-43 thanks in part to a team utilizing the disabled list 23 times. In addition to Ellsbury, outfielder Carl Crawford has missed the entire year, while Josh Beckett, Dustin Pedroia and Daisuke Matsuzaka among others have all missed time.
"A little more stability would be good," manager Bobby Valentine said. "I think the guys are coming together. I think if we have some good health, the second half could be exciting. I'm looking forward to it."
Still, while the Red Sox trail the New York Yankees by 9 1/2 games in the American League East, they are only 2 1/2 back for one of the league's two wild cards.
Tonight, they turn to lefty Franklin Morales, who pitched well in his first three starts before being roughed up by the Yankees his last time out. Morales gave up six runs in 3 1/3 innings of that one to fall to 1-2 on the year while raising his ERA to 3.50.
The former reliever, who had pitched to a 2.00 ERA in his first three starts, set off a benches clearing brawl when he last faced the Rays, hitting Luke Scott back on May 27.
Tampa, meanwhile, will counter with righty Jeremy Hellickson, who lost his final five decisions before the break. Hellickson fell for the third straight start on July 5 in Cleveland, as he surrendered two runs and five hits in six innings, dropping him to 4-5 to go along with a 3.41 ERA.
Hellickson is 3-1 in eight games (7 starts) versus the Red Sox with a 4.26 ERA.
The Rays, who went into the All-Star break as losers in nine of their last 14 games, start the second half in third place in the AL East, 7 1/2 games back of the Yankees. Like the Red Sox, though, they are right in the thick of the wild card race, trailing the leaders by only a half game.
Boston has won five of its nine matchups with the Rays this season.