BOS@TOR: Papi clears the bases, gives Sox the lead

TORONTO -- David Ortiz was out of the Red Sox's starting lineup in Thursday's series finale against the Blue Jays, as manager John Farrell wanted to give the designated hitter a rest on Toronto's AstroTurf.

Farrell said he intended to give Ortiz, who is riding a career-high 22-game hitting streak dating back to last season, a day off coming into the series and that nothing is physically bothering the slugger.

"Today is a planned down day for him. It gives Mike Napoli a chance to DH and get off his feet on this turf," Farrell said.

Ortiz, who began the season on the disabled list with a sore right Achilles, has been on a tear since returning. The 37-year-old is batting .487 with three homers, 15 RBIs and a 1.490 OPS in just 10 games.

Farrell is quite familiar with Ortiz from his time as pitching coach Boston from 2007-10 and said age hasn't slowed the slugger down.

"No, he's better," Farrell said when asked if Ortiz is the same player now as he was back then. "Everyone probably associates extra-base and home-run power with David, but he has gotten better as a hitter, smarter as a hitter. He'll look to drive the ball early in counts, and then with two strikes, he'll look to take what opposing pitchers are giving to him -- and he uses the whole field.

"He has a rare blend of that high average and power capability."

Jarrod Saltalamacchia said teammates look up to Ortiz and admire how strong he is mentally. It's his easy-going attitude, Saltalamacchia believes, that is part of the reason Ortiz has played at such an elite level for so long.

"There is no hitter I can think of that is mentally stronger than him," Saltalamacchia said. "You may get him one time, but he's going to get you the next at-bat. That's tough to do in this game, especially when that's all you do. This is all he does, is hit. There are no other designated hitters in the game like him.

"He'll have a conversation with a guy, laughing and joking and then he'll be like, 'Oh, I have to hit now,' and he'll go out and hit a homer. He's a special breed."

Back better, Victorino slated to return Friday

BOS@CLE: Victorino saves runs with running catch

TORONTO -- Shane Victorino missed his seventh consecutive game Thursday, but he should be ready to return to the Red Sox's lineup vs. the Rangers on Friday in a clash featuring two first-place teams.

The right fielder, who is dealing with lower back stiffness, is available as a pinch-hitter on Thursday, if needed, after taking batting practice for the first time since the injury.

Over the week, Victorino gradually worked himself up from hitting off a tee, taking soft toss and doing cage work before Thursday's batting practice session, which manager John Farrell said was the final hurdle he needed to pass.

"He came out of it feeling well and tried to talk his way into the lineup today," Farrell said. "Everything points to him being back in the lineup [Friday] in Texas."

Farrell complimented the work that Jonny Gomes and Mike Carp have done during Victorino's absence. Carp has hit two homers during Boston's series in Toronto and Gomes has gone deep once.

"But getting Shane back will be a boost for us," Farrell said.

The Red Sox took a cautious approach with Victorino, as he experienced some slight pains throughout the week when making certain movements. In 19 games, Victorino is batting .292 with a .358 on-base percentage in his first season with Boston.

Worth noting

  Franklin Morales (pectoral muscle) threw long toss from 120-130 feet out on Thursday for the second consecutive day and came away from it feeling symptom-free. The left-hander, who has been on the disabled list all season, will throw a bullpen session, likely around 30 pitches, during the Red Sox's upcoming series in Texas, Farrell said. Morales will need to throw a couple side sessions before going on a rehabilitation assignment.