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David Ortiz's rehab assignment begins Thursday

Ortiz is one step closer to finally returning to the Red Sox' lineup

Jared Wickerham

David Ortiz has missed Boston's first week-plus of games, and all of spring training, but he now looks to be just a step away from the majors. He'll begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday, and could be back in Boston roughly a week later.

Starting in Pawtucket goes to show how quickly the Red Sox and Ortiz think he can be ready, as he's not going to replicate a spring training workload on his way back to the bigs. He'll face the toughest competition the minors has to offer right away, work to get his timing back, then reenter the Boston picture. This will mean Jackie Bradley Jr. has a week left in the majors, but that's just fine, as he's managed to help out defensively while getting on base in his first taste of big-league action, as the Sox hoped he would. There is work yet to be done for him in the minors, and the Red Sox have plenty of left field help once Ortiz comes back, in the form of Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes, anyway.

Just how Ortiz will do when he returns is up for debate, but once he gets in the swing of things, so long as there is no pain in his heel or Achilles, he should be productive. Boston has played well without him, but there is no arguing that they are a better team with a healthy and hitting David Ortiz than they are without.

[Update 3:01 pm] Courtesy John Farrell's pre-game discussion with the media, we've got some confirmation on when we can expect Ortiz back: