Ortiz to play in Pawtucket on Thursday

Ortiz to play in Pawtucket on Thursday

BOSTON -- Red Sox slugger David Ortiz will be back in New England on Thursday, when he starts a Minor League rehab assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket.

The designated hitter has made significant progress in recent days with his right Achilles, and played in some extended Spring Training games.

The PawSox have an eight-game homestand that begins Thursday, so Ortiz could play all of those games if he needs the at-bats. He could be activated by the Red Sox at some point next week, perhaps for the start of next homestand, which is April 19 against the Royals. It would be more surprising if Ortiz is activated during Boston's three-game series at Cleveland from April 16-18, though the club hasn't ruled anything out.

"His return date to us is still uncertain at this point, and that's going to depend on David and how comfortable he feels in the box with his timing, but we would assume somewhere in the 20 to 30 at-bat range would be expected that he'll need," said manager John Farrell. "More than anything, the last four or five days, he's seemingly has turned the corner with more aggressive running the bases and the way he feels at the plate. He's in a pretty good place right now all things considered."

Highly touted prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. has been holding down Ortiz's spot start in the lineup, playing the outfield while Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes have shared DH duties.

Bradley had a tough weekend in Toronto, going 1-for-11 and got his first day off in Monday's home opener. He was back in the lineup for Wednesday's game against the Orioles, batting ninth and playing left field.

"John felt like sometimes with a young player, you get to the big leagues, that first week, there's a lot going on, and you can take a day to watch and get back in it," said general manager Ben Cherington. "He still took some walks in Toronto and played defense and was helping the team. We know what he's capable of doing offensively. We expect to see a lot more of that."

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.