PHILADELPHIA — Red Sox second baseman Ian Kinsler, on the disabled list since Aug. 4 with a left hamstring strain, could return this week, manager Alex Cora said.
As the Sox navigated a rainy pregame before their Tuesday matchup with the Phillies, Kinsler was set to go through a workout to test out his hamstring.
Kinsler had been rehabbing in Single A Lowell the past week and rejoined the Sox in Philadelphia.
“He feels that he’s close to being 100 percent, so there might be a chance he might be back tomorrow or Friday,” Cora said. “But we feel very good where he’s at. He had good workouts in Lowell and we’re happy he’s around us again.”
Kinsler will face lefthander Eduardo Rodriguez in a four-inning simulated game Wednesday and the Sox will determine their decision from there.
Rodriguez, who went on the DL July 14, will likely begin a rehab assignment following the sim game.
“If he keeps throwing the ball as the way he’s been throwing it in bullpens and that live BP the other day, it seems like he’ll probably go on a rehab assignment right after that,” Cora said.
Vazquez not close
The Red Sox had September targeted as a return date for catcher Christian Vazquez, who has been on the disabled list since July 8 with a fractured right pinkie. But as the date inches closer, a sense of urgency is increasing.
Vazquez is set to start throwing this weekend, but he still hasn’t swung a bat.
“That’s going to be the toughest part,” Cora said. “And we’re counting on him, he’s going to be back at one point during the season. But at the same time, minor league season ends Sept. 3, if I’m not mistaken, so we’ll see where he’s at because we’re running out of days.
“And it’s not his fault, obviously, but we’ve got to see where he’s at as far as how many at-bats he can get, where he can get his at-bats and go from there.”
After an uncharacteristically shaky stretch, Sox closer Craig Kimbrel has been working with pitching coach Dana LeVangie to find answers for his fastball command.
Over his past six appearances — before pitching a scoreless ninth for the save in Tuesday’s 2-1 win over the Phillies — Kimbrel had allowed five runs on six hits (two homers) in 6⅓ innings with two blown saves.
While opponents’ .188 batting average against his fastball entering Tuesday was still staggering, a year ago Kimbrel’s heater was practically untouchable as hitters were .134 against it.
“Actually Dana was talking about it yesterday, something mechanically,” Cora said. “It’s not about the fastball, it’s about command. He goes to certain spots in the strike zone that it’s tough to catch up. Last year, I know he had an outstanding season.
“This year, it’s been a little bit different from what he went through in spring training, but at the same time, we saw flashes of him being great for a while there.
“We know he’s going to get back there so being able to recognize something, and hopefully, we can fix it right away and he can get back to being dominant.”
Johnson lined up
Brian Johnson will slide into the rotation Friday against the Rays. He was also available out of the bullpen Tuesday night for an inning, if needed.
That flexibility has been critical for the Sox this season, Cora said.
“Somebody asked me yesterday about J.D. [Martinez] and Mookie [Betts] as far as the MVP of the team. I know they’ve been 1 and 2 doing what they do, but if you start looking at under the radar guys that have put this team in a position to be successful on a daily basis, BJ’s one of them.”
Johnson, 27, has made 30 appearances this season, eight starts. He is 3-3 with a 3.95 ERA, and the Sox are 6-2 when he starts.
“He’s been helping me to start games, to relieve, to make sure that we have 27 outs when we need them on a daily basis and he hasn’t complained,” Cora said.
“He just keeps competing, he keeps getting better, and we’re very happy with the way he’s been performing.”
Nunez on hot streak
Since making an adjustment in his swing to be more direct to the ball, Eduardo Nunez has turned the corner offensively. In the first 10 games this month, Nunez was hitting .302 with a homer, a triple, a double, and two stolen bases.
He had scored in a career-high five straight games before failing to get on base in his 0-for-4 night in Philadelphia.
“He was in the cage working and you can see it now,” Cora said.
“His swing is a lot better, more aggressive in the strike zone, more direct to the ball, The ball is jumping off his bat. He’s been great at third base, he’s been playing good defense, running the bases — some big stolen bases in the last week and a half — and we’re very pleased with the way he’s been playing.”
The Phillies sold former pitching prospect Jake Thompson to the Brewers. The 24-year-old righthander was 7-8 with a 4.87 ERA in 18 starts and 30 appearances since debuting with Philadelphia in 2016.
Thompson was drafted in the second round by Detroit in 2012.
Material from the Associated press was used in this report. Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.