BOSTON -- On Thursday, one day earlier than expected, Allen Craig returned to the Boston lineup. The right-handed hitter, who played just one game after being acquired from St. Louis before going on the disabled list, batted fifth and served as the designated hitter, going 0-for-3 in a 2-0 loss.
The original plan was for Craig to play one more rehab game at Triple-A Pawtucket, but with Will Middlebrooks and Mike Napoli banged up the past couple of days and David Ortiz getting a day of rest, the decision was made to speed up his return.
The Red Sox will use the final 36 games of the season to get a handle on where Craig is not only offensively but from a physical standpoint.
Craig is just coming off a sprain of his left foot, the same foot that gave him so many problems late last season.
"The injury he had last year was something that was given rest and recovery rather than a repair," said manager John Farrell. "Probably as much to do with [the Cardinals'] stretch into the postseason. I guess it's debatable whether a repair was needed or recommended. They chose the conservative path. ... What he was feeling wasn't a result of the actual previous injury. But does the previous injury still give some instability? That's again, debatable."
The Red Sox will re-evaluate Craig once the season ends to determine the best course of action for the offseason.
"I think it depends on how he responds to the consistent play during the rest of this schedule," said Farrell.
Craig had been a solid offensive performer in recent years before a considerable dip with the Cardinals this season prior to the trade.
The Red Sox look forward to getting a closer look.
"I think any time you acquire a new player, you want to see them first-hand and see them on the field, and now we have the opportunity to have that play out," said Farrell.
Craig played in two rehab games for Triple-A Pawtucket, including one on Wednesday night, when he went 1-for-3 with a two-run single and scored a run. He went 0-for-2 with a walk in his rehab game on Monday night.
Including his time with the Cardinals, Craig has a .237/.291/.348 slash line, with seven home runs and 44 RBIs in 98 games this season.
To make room for Craig on the roster, the Red Sox optioned Alex Hassan to Triple-A.
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.