Nunez close to returning, but Hanley hurting

Red Sox infielder recovering from right knee injury; DH dealing with sore biceps

Nunez close to returning, but Hanley hurting

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Red Sox like the way Eduardo Nunez is recovering from a right knee injury. Hanley Ramirez's pestering upper-body injuries are less uplifting.

"The development with [Nunez] have been very encouraging," Boston manager John Farrell said before Friday's series opener against the Rays at Tropicana Field. "I thought today's early work, the way he moved around, the way he swung the bat, that's been a really positive development. Hopefully that day is getting closer that he gets back in the lineup."

The estimated return for Boston's non-waiver Trade Deadline acquisition was meant to be re-evaluated seven to 10 days after the initial injury. Nunez sprained a PCL ligament sliding to steal second base against the Rays last Saturday. Closing in on that re-evaluation window, the Red Sox have reason for optimism.

"I know he feels like it could be possible on this road trip that he's back to us," Farrell said. "Based on the way [Nunez]'s reacting right now, he'll be there as soon as he's first available, and quite honestly, after today's work, in my mind, that's sooner than maybe we first anticipated."

The same cannot be said for Ramirez. He has not missed much action this season, playing in 123 games, but he's battled injuries while on the field. Often dealing with shoulder pain, Ramirez now has soreness in his left biceps as well. He sat out Thursday's game with Oakland and had an MRI on Friday in Florida.

"[Ramirez] just feels like he can't trigger," Farrell said. "It's the left shoulder, so as he gets to the point of contact, it's -- as he describes it -- not feeling like he can fire through as he typically does."

With Ramirez's designated hitter spot left vacant, Dustin Pedroia will see time at the position. Farrell said Christian Vazquez is a DH candidate when he is not catching. Sam Travis and Nunez could also DH, depending on when Nunez returns.

Connor Mount is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Petersburg. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.