White Sox-Red Sox Preview

The Associated Press

With David Ortiz now on the disabled list, the Boston Red Sox still can't seem to piece together a fully healthy lineup.

Having Dustin Pedroia back, though, figures to help a group that's not exactly struggling - especially at Fenway Park.

The Red Sox expect their star second baseman to return Thursday night as they conclude a four-game set and their season series against the Chicago White Sox.

Boston (47-45) placed Ortiz (strained right Achilles) on the 15-day DL Wednesday, then proceeded to rout the White Sox 10-1 behind a pair of three-run homers from Cody Ross. Adrian Gonzalez had the other four RBIs, giving him nine along with seven hits in 12 at-bats through the first three games of this series.

In winning five of seven against Chicago (50-41) this year, the Red Sox have averaged 6.0 runs. They're batting .305 with 6.8 runs per game while going 10-6 at home over the past month.

Overall, they lead the majors with 465 runs.

"We've been scoring runs with guys on the disabled list and different lineups," manager Bobby Valentine said.

Their lineup has been rejuvenated at the top by the recent returns of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, and it would get even more formidable if Pedroia can recapture his elite form.

The 2008 AL MVP has struggled for much of this season with a right thumb injury, but Boston is hoping 15 days on the DL gave him enough time to heal.

"He said he was ready about four days ago," Valentine told the Red Sox's official website. "He's such an important part of our team, so much fun to watch play, that for his psyche as well as ours I hope he gets back in (Thursday)."

It's unclear how Valentine will handle the lineup with Ellsbury, Crawford and Pedroia all together for the first time in 2012, but Pedroia could slide into the No. 3 spot.

Then again, Ross did a pretty good job there Wednesday as he continues to pound left-handed pitching. Both of his homers came off rookie southpaw Pedro Hernandez and he added a double against left-handed reliever Hector Santiago, giving Ross 14 hits - eight homers - in his last 31 at-bats against lefties.

He'll get a chance to add to those totals Thursday against another rookie in Jose Quintana, who was hurt by the long ball in his most recent outing Friday. He allowed five runs and eight hits - two homers - in five innings of Chicago's 9-8, 14-inning win at Kansas City.

Quintana (4-1, 2.60 ERA) has provided an unexpected boost for the banged-up White Sox rotation, but he has given up 11 runs in 11 innings over his last two road starts.

Clay Buchholz (8-3, 5.54) will make his second start for Boston since a stint on the DL with esophagitis which caused internal bleeding.

He allowed four runs and lost to David Price and Tampa Bay on Saturday, but he carried a 3-2 lead into the seventh inning and struck out eight while yielding just three hits and one walk.

"I felt good," Buchholz said. "I felt rested, and I think that was the biggest thing."

The right-hander hasn't pitched against Chicago since 2010. The White Sox pounded him the first two times he faced them, but he posted a 2.08 ERA in two 2010 meetings.

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