HOU@BOS: Bard pitches a scoreless ninth in return

BOSTON -- Daniel Bard entered in the eighth inning of Saturday's 8-4 win over the Astros and threw six straight balls, one strike, and three more balls before being removed by manager John Farrell.

It was Bard's second appearance with the Red Sox this season after throwing a scoreless inning Thursday night, striking out one and walking none.

Bard said he wasn't worried about the two walks he allowed Saturday.

"My slot got a little high," said Bard, who was charged with an earned run when Alex Wilson allowed an inherited runner to score. "I was locked in in the bullpen. I was throwing it as good as I can throw the ball, and then I got into the game and it probably crept up a little high, which is usually not what I want to be doing.

"It's just a matter of adjusting it back to a lower slot. It's nice when you're able to recognize it right away, get to work and fix it for the next time."

After Bard's sixth straight ball, pitching coach Juan Nieves came out for a chat.

"He said it was my tempo, said I was a little slower to the plate than I had been," Bard said. "I think that's probably a valid point. Nothing major. I think it's just that the slot wasn't there and I didn't have time to make adjustments. That's on me."

Before the game, Bard said the most important aspects of pitching successfully are being able to attack hitters while staying in line with home plate.

Bard wasn't able to do either of those last season, when he posted a career-worst 6.22 ERA before being demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket, where his ERA rose to 7.03.

The right-hander spent time working with Bob Tewksbury, the Red Sox's sports psychologist and a former Major League pitcher. That could help him develop a consistent mindset.

"Me and Tewks are tight," Bard said. "We go way back. He's kind of been through the whole journey with me. I know he cares about me as a person as much as he cares about me as a player, so he's just a good guy to talk to. He has a lot of knowledge and wisdom about his game and how to handle things. So he's good to have around."

Ellsbury appreciates latest milestone

HOU@BOS: Ellsbury steals career base No. 200

BOSTON -- When Jacoby Ellsbury stole the 200th base of his career on Friday night, he became the only living Red Sox player to steal that many bases for the club.

Tris Speaker, who played his last game for the Red Sox in 1915, stole 267 bases in his career in Boston. Harry Hooper, who holds the club record with 300 steals, played his last game for the Red Sox in 1920.

"It's pretty neat, because 200 steals is quite a bit," Ellsbury said. "That's pretty remarkable. Those are two famous Red Sox, so it's neat to be in their company. Hopefully I can keep on tacking on to that."

Though Ellsbury will turn 30 in September, his legs are showing no signs of slowing down.

"My legs are fresh," said Ellsbury. "Fresh legs."

Ellsbury entered Saturday's game leading the Major Leagues with 11 stolen bases.

Although manager John Farrell noted in Spring Training that the club wanted Ellsbury to be aggressive on the bases, the center fielder said that his mentality hasn't changed.

"It's not a matter of making a point, just putting pressure on the defense, just like I always have," Ellsbury said. "Fortunately, I've had a few more swipes early on."

Morales struggling to get over injuries

Outlook: Morales needs to limit walks, homers in '13

BOSTON -- It continues to be a struggle for Franklin Morales to get back on to the Red Sox's active roster.

The lefty swingman was slowed in Spring Training by a back injury. Once he finally was able to make an appearance for Class A Greenville to start his rehab assignment, Morales suffered a left pectoral strain that now has him in the middle of a five-day shutdown period.

If Morales can recover well enough, he will resume throwing on Tuesday, but it could be a while before he gets back into a game.

The Red Sox stopped the clock on his 30-day rehab assignment.

Morales had left shoulder woes for the latter part of 2012, ending his season early. Is it all related?

"Based on the location of the current injury, you would say no," said manager John Farrell. "But the fact is, it's still on his throwing side, so I can't say they're completely unrelated, but it was a shoulder issue at the end of last year, it's a pec muscle right now. Just looking at that, they aren't related. The fact is, it affects him when he throws, so we're in the situation we are."

Farrell is hoping to get Morales stretched out as a starter to give the team additional depth in the rotation.

All systems go for Lackey in series finale

BOS@TOR: Lackey strikes out eight in first start

BOSTON -- Red Sox right-hander John Lackey hopes the latest comeback is for keeps.

While making his first start of the season -- and his first since undergoing Tommy John surgery in October 2011 -- on April 6 in Toronto, Lackey suffered a strained right biceps.

However, he has made it back from this latest ailment in short order and is eager to take the ball for the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon against the Astros.

"Based on the game pitched [on a Minors rehab assignment], and the bullpen [session] that followed, there's been no symptoms that have reoccurred," said manager John Farrell. "The fact is, when he felt it up in Toronto, I think it was just getting to an arm speed and a velocity that he hasn't experienced in probably two years."

Lackey went 3 2/3 innings in his rehab start at Double-A Portland, throwing 67 pitches.

Obviously he won't be pitching a complete game against the Astros on Sunday.

"We've got an idea with a certain pitch range that he'll approach at some point, and that will be the end of it for the day," said Farrell. "The fact that he got up and down four times his last outing, he was up and down into the fifth inning his first outing. That's kind of the range that we're looking at going into tomorrow. The stress of each of the pitches thrown are going to have some impact on the decision of how deep he can go into tomorrow's game."

Worth noting

• Outfielder Shane Victorino was sidelined for the third straight game due to back spasms, and he's missed five games this week due to the ailment. Farrell said Victorino showed slight improvement from the day before and is questionable for Sunday. If Victorino isn't ready to play by the start of the road trip on Tuesday, the club could be forced to put him on the disabled list.

• Closer Joel Hanrahan (right hamstring injury) felt a slight twinge on one pitch during his first Minor League rehab outing on Friday, but otherwise he felt fine. He is on track to pitch for Triple-A Pawtucket again on Sunday. If there are no setbacks, he will rejoin the Red Sox for the road trip that starts Tuesday night in Toronto. To this point, Farrell has not said if Hanrahan will be reinstated as closer or if Andrew Bailey will continue to pitch the ninth inning.

• Following the Red Sox's 8-4 win over the Astros on Saturday night, catcher Ryan Lavarnway was informed that he was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket to make room for John Lackey, who is slated to come off the disabled list and start Sunday's series finale. Lavarnway was on the roster for three days, but he didn't play.