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Franklin Morales starts rehab assignment in Greenville

The Red Sox lefty is working his way back to the majors, starting Wednesday

Jared Wickerham

Franklin Morales missed most of spring training and all of the regular season so far thanks to a bulging disc in his back. Because of this, when John Lackey was forced to the disabled list after his first start, it was Alfredo Aceves and not Morales taking the mound as the team's first line of defense for the rotation. While Lackey is working his way back, cutting down on the need for either Aceves or Morales past the next couple of starts, there could be another injury down the road. Morales should be ready to cover for that one, though, as he's beginning a rehab assignment with Low-A Greenville on Wednesday.

Morales is being stretched out as a starter, just like he was during spring training prior to his back issues. He'll replace Aceves as the first option out of the bullpen to join the rotation, even if Aceves is capable enough during his remaining time as Lackey's fill-in, as Morales has a more successful history of starting with the Red Sox despite a lack of preparation for the role in 2012. His career with the Rockies was up-and-down, but with the Sox, he owns a 3.73 ERA, 117 ERA+, career-best 2.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and superior walk rates in his 108 innings of work that includes nine starts.

What his return also means for the Red Sox, whenever it occurs, is another lefty out of the pen besides Andrew Miller, and likely the end of either Alex Wilson or Steven Wright with Boston. Wilson is up while Lackey is on the disabled list, while Wright is around for Joel Hanrahan. By the time Morales returns, Lackey should be back in the rotation and Aceves in the bullpen, so even if Wright survives the initial cut due to his being stretched out as a starter, versus Wilson who is just a reliever these days, he won't be necessary in the Sox bullpen any longer.

That's likely a few weeks from now, however, as Morales threw all of one inning this spring, and the Red Sox are unlikely to rush him back.