2:45 p.m.: Will Middlebrooks is back, and the odd man out, as has been speculated, is Pedro Ciriaco.
Ciriaco had his shining moments last season on a team that had little else to offer, but he hasn’t been anything but an average fill-in on the big league roster this year. With Jose Iglesias playing some truly inspired baseball in Middlebrooks’ absence, it only made sense to keep Iglesias around as the utility infielder.
Ciriaco has been designated for assignment, and he is out of options, meaning any team can scoop him up. Peter Abraham of The Boston Globe and others, though, think there’s a good chance he could clear waivers and stay with the team.
Middlebrooks, meanwhile, returns to the lineup and will start tonight at third base. The Red Sox have said the corner bag is his spot going forward, although he was in quite a slump when he hit the disabled list with a lower back strain.
2:30 p.m.: John Lackey has put up quality numbers in the Red Sox rotation this season, but he hasn’t always had the wins to show for them. That could change Monday night.
The Red Sox (39-25) are hitting the road for a seven-game stretch against American League East opponents. The first three games will be in Tampa Bay against the Rays (34-28), with the final four coming in Baltimore against the Orioles (35-28). The Red Sox lead the AL East going into Monday, but the Yankees are just a game and a half back, with the Rays and O’s close behind.
Lackey (3-5, 2.79 ERA) has put up some stellar starts this season, but he hasn’t always had the run support he’s needed to get the W, including last Wednesday’s six-inning, one-earned-run effort against the Rangers. One team that has gotten to Lackey this season, though, was the Rays. Tampa tagged him for five earned runs the last time they met, on May 14 — the highest run total allowed and least amount of innings pitched (4 1/3) by Lackey this year. Since then, though, Lackey has been stellar, giving up just four earned runs in four games.
The Red Sox will face a pitcher they’ve beat before this season in Alex Cobb (6-2, 2.39 ERA). In their two meetings this year, the Sox have come up winners both times, 5-0 on April 14 and 4-3 on May 16. Cobb is 2-0 with a 1.21 ERA and 17 strikeouts in his last three starts, though.
First pitch is going at 7:10 p.m., with more news to come here in the meanwhile.