BOSTON -- While Alfredo Aceves is holding the dam shut at the back end of the rotation for now, the Red Sox could have a pair of options returning to good form soon.
John Lackey is starting to feel less and less tightness in his strained right biceps that forced him to the 15-day disabled list after leaving his 2013 debut after just 4 1/3 innings on April 6.
"We're hopeful to put a ball back in his hand in the next couple of days," manager John Farrell said Saturday morning. "There are decreasing symptoms. The tightness he's felt in the biceps is gradually going away.
"I don't know that we have a template that we're going to exactly follow with this one, but certainly how he feels is the most important guide in this."
When the Red Sox feel ready to test Lackey at length, the right-hander is expected to make at least one rehab start before being activated.
"We'll need to test him just so that when he walks to the mound, he's aware and he feels confident that there's nothing structurally holding him back," Farrell said.
Should the Red Sox find themselves in need of another starter, Franklin Morales continues to mend from a back strain that forced him to start the season on the DL.
Farrell said Morales has shown good arm strength and hasn't been feeling any discomfort. He'll likely throw about 50 pitches on Wednesday before departing for a rehab assignment, first at Double-A Portland and then at Triple-A Pawtucket.
Once Morales is stretched out to about 85 pitches, the Red Sox would likely add him to the active roster.
"If that need is here, we'd have the ability to recall him at that point provided there are no setbacks," Farrell said. "That's the range we definitely want to get him to.
"If he does come back in the bullpen, ideally we'd start him out with some clean innings before we run him into situations where there are men on base. We'll see how that unfolds."
Nava's hot start keeps Bradley on bench
BOSTON -- Manager John Farrell typically does more homework than he needs to, so Farrell was well aware Daniel Nava has just one hit with seven strikeouts in 15 at-bats against David Price, the scheduled starter for the Rays on Saturday afternoon.
Farrell just didn't care as he penciled in Nava's name as the starting left fielder, batting sixth.
When it comes to overall productivity at the plate, Nava may be the best on the Red Sox right now. Against lefties, against righties, Farrell wants the switch-hitting Nava in the lineup.
"We look at everyone's matchups as part of the decision making," Farrell said. "We've talked about how confident Daniel is right now. At some point in this game, the ability to break up those right-handers is going to be needed without too much pinch-hitting or emptying the bench to strictly match up. That's where Daniel is in the middle of this.
"I realize he's 1-for-15 coming into today against Price, but, I think, overall, he's put up very good at-bats as consistently as anyone in our lineup on both sides of the plate."
Nava has collected a hit in all six games he's played in this year, scoring five runs, homering three times and driving in eight runs. He's hitting .421 with a .520 on-base percentage.
"We'll ride it as long as we're capable of," Farrell said.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who has made just three starts this week, will again be on the bench. While the Red Sox had originally said they only wanted their No. 2 prospect in the Majors if he had the opportunity to play every day, Nava's hot bat has forced the manager's hand.
"It is a balance," Farrell said. "Going up against a guy like Price or [Orioles starter Wei-Yin Chen], with some of the recent developments with Jackie over the last three or four days, we still want to put the most competitive lineup we can on the field.
"We're not here to say there are roster changes that are going to take place just because Jackie's not playing for the second time in four days. That's not what we're here about. We'll continue to find the right combinations, and that would include Jackie in different scenarios as well."
• David Ortiz was batting third at designated hitter for Triple-A Pawtucket in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader. Ortiz was 2-for-3 in his first rehab start with Pawtucket. Farrell said he's looking for 20-25 at-bats from Ortiz before he's ready to join the big league club.
• Left-handed reliever Craig Breslow will get his first game action in extended spring training on Tuesday as he continues to progress from left shoulder tendinitis. The 32-year-old struck out 19 batters in 20 innings with a 2.70 ERA with Boston last year. The Red Sox have been rolling with just one lefty, Andrew Miller, in the bullpen this season.
• Saturday starter Jon Lester has contained two of the Rays best hitters throughout his career, holding Evan Longoria to a .231 average (9-for-39) and Ben Zobrist to a .229 average (8-for-35).
• Entering Saturday, Red Sox starters have held opponents to three runs or fewer in all nine games this season, matching the longest streak to begin a season in club history, previously accomplished by the 1916 club. Babe Ruth, Ernie Shore and Rube Foster made up the starting rotation then.
• The Red Sox lead the Majors with 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings.