BOSTON -- Sooner rather than later. That was the good word from Red Sox manager Terry Francona on Sunday morning regarding the return of Matt Clement to the club's rotation.
Nine days after being struck in the right side of his head by a Carl Crawford line drive, the manager said he expects the right-hander to return Thursday afternoon in the series finale against Kansas City.
"I think Thursday is probably very realistic," Francona said. "He wanted to go Tuesday, and he was kind of adamant about it, and that kind of showed me he was feeling good. I stepped in and said, 'No, Tuesday's out. If you feel that good on Tuesday, you'll feel great on Thursday.' I don't think we need to back him up any farther than that.
"He's passed all his tests with flying colors. I don't think we need to back him up any farther than that. He's passed all his tests with flying colors with the medical people. I think he'll be OK."
Cruzing to Boston: Francona said Sunday Jose Cruz Jr. is on his way to Boston and is expected to join the team Tuesday in time for the club's series opener against the Royals. The team acquired the 31-year-old switch-hitting outfielder Saturday along with cash considerations from Arizona for Minor League infielder Kenny Perez and Minor League pitcher Kyle Bono.
The manager added that he would use the veteran in a potential platoon with Gabe Kapler in place of the injured Trot Nixon.
"We'll make right field work," Francona said. "I don't want to say too much, because I haven't thought about it in depth enough. I really haven't. I was a tad bit busy [Saturday]."
Answering the bell: Mark Bellhorn is scheduled to begin his rehab assignment Monday with Triple-A Pawtucket, continuing his return from a sprained left thumb.
"I can pretty much do everything," said Bellhorn, who didn't put a timetable on his return. ""No idea, just going to go with it and see how it feels and when I'm ready to come back, I'll come back."
Bellhorn, who injured the thumb diving for a Jason Giambi grounder July 17, said he doesn't feel added pressure to return given the success of Tony Graffanino and Alex Cora in his place.
"My whole career, it's been a battle [for playing time]," said Bellhorn. "For myself, that's this game and this business and you have to perform and it's just another incentive for me to come back and play better."
On deck: Following Monday's off-day, the Red Sox return to action Tuesday, sending Tim Wakefield (9-9, 4.19 ERA) to the mound against Kansas City. It will also be Boston's first look at Kansas City in 2005, the last American League team they have yet to play.
Mike Petraglia is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.