It's still early in the season, but there already has been no shortage of players taking rehab assignments in order to work back from injuries. First it was Rich Hill and Andrew Miller, then Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kevin Youkilis, and now, after a brief stint back on the disabled list due to a trapezius strain, Dice-K is back at rehab, this time along with outfielder Darnell McDonald, recovering from an oblique strain.
Dice-K will make a start for Pawtucket on Saturday against the Toledo Mud Hens. He hasn't been consistently impressive at this level of rehab yet, giving up four homers and nine earned runs in 16-2/3 innings over four starts. It's understandable, since it's rehab, but sometimes it takes a bit more time to re-acclimate yourself after Tommy John surgery. Junichi Tazawa serves as a reminder of this -- he was hit hard, and often, at the lower levels during last season's rehab, but once he came around, he was nigh unstoppable on the mound against kids that he should (and did) overmatch.
Dice-K hasn't hit that moment yet, at least not in Pawtucket, but the Red Sox hope that sometime within his restarted 30-day rehab clock that he will. With Aaron Cook's knee still not healed, and Clay Buchholz failing to show any kind of consistency, Dice-K might end up as a necessary piece of depth, and Boston will need him ready for that.
As for Darnell McDonald, he has once again started the year out poorly, but it's mostly due to batting average. He's drawing walks over 12 percent of the time, and his Isolated Power is .178 thanks to a pair of homers and four doubles. He's hit just .179 on the season, though, as is bound to happen in just about any 65-plate appearance stretch. His .186 batting average on balls in play won't last the year, and his return would likely also mean the Red Sox have one more competent outfielder on the roster while they wait for July and the return of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Ryan Kalish, and Cody Ross.
Boston might not need a trade deadline acquisition that month, because they're going to have an entirely new-look team without so much as lifting a finger. Whether they can hold on in the interim is another question, but successful rehab assignments from Dice-K and McDonald could help them achieve that goal.