Ellsbury, who has missed the last three games after suffering a back contusion on Friday night, had a good day on Monday.
"Jacoby is doing OK," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "He came in early and hit, which is good. I think we're pushing for tomorrow. I think he's good with that. He came in and he was sort of 'I think he can play,' so I said let me take this out of your hands -- we'll go one more day. I think if we do that, we'll be in good shape tomorrow."
There was clearly a difference for Ellsbury between Sunday and Monday.
"He hit yesterday, but it wasn't easy for him," Francona said. "Today he let it loose a little bit more. He did better. If he keeps improving like he has he'll be able to play tomorrow. He'll be sore, but he'll be ready to play."
David Ortiz, another key cog who hasn't played for Boston since Aug. 14 because of bursitis in his right heel, took batting practice for the third straight day.
A bigger step comes Tuesday when he sheds the walking boot -- hopefully for good -- and does some running. If Ortiz passes that step, his return could come during the series against the Rangers, which concludes Thursday night.
"He'll be re-evaluated again to see if he can get out of the boot," Francona said. "I think now it's not so much comfort, because when he hits he's good, but as the point tenderness goes away enough where I think the medical people think he can start doing some running and not go backwards. We have to see where he is. He'll be looked at every day."
And what about third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who is on the disabled list with a lower back strain and not eligible to play until Sept. 2?
"Today is an upgrade in activity, doing some cardio, some core work, things like that," Francona said.