"You guys missed it," Red Sox shortstop Julio Lugo said to reporters. "You missed the laser show."
Lugo was being sarcastic when it came to the baseballs that left his rusty bat moments earlier during a round of early batting practice. But just the fact that he was swinging again left him in a cheerful mood.
It has been a long, depressing second half for Lugo, who last played for the Red Sox on July 11, the night he severely strained his left quadriceps.
Then came the fateful day of Aug. 20, when Lugo, just a few days from a Minor League rehab assignment, pulled the quad all over again during some running exercises at Camden Yards.
But, finally, Lugo can feel progress. And even if others suspect that his season is over, Lugo says not to give up hope on him just yet as he tries to beat the clock.
"I had no pain swinging," said Lugo. "I'm making a lot of progress. I know I can hit. I don't feel any pain there. I just have to get my mobility now."
Lugo estimates that he ran at about 65 percent intensity on Friday. That is the last hurdle.
"Just the explosive side," said Lugo. "Getting the first step. Getting strong enough to take the first step. That's the only thing we're missing right now."
Even though pushing the quad is what likely caused the last setback, Lugo knows that there's going to come a day in the not too distant future where he's going to have to do so again. And that is when the decision will be made for both Lugo and the Red Sox, who have 17 games left in the regular season.
"You're running against the clock," said Lugo. "You have to find out if you're going to play or not going to play. Otherwise, it's not going to be fair for me or the team."
Though shortstop Jed Lowrie has done a solid job filling in for Lugo, the rookie switch-hitter has struggled of late at the plate, hitting .200 over his previous 21 games, and 8-for-41 in the past 12 games.
But can Lugo get healthy enough to reclaim his starting job?
"If I'm going to be healthy [to come back], it means I can recuperate from one day to another," said Lugo. "I've been working hard. Endurance is the hardest part about knowing how to recuperate from one day to another."
Even if Lugo does prove to be healthy before the postseason, will he get his job back?
"That's the thing you've got to ask [manager Terry Francona]," Lugo said. "We'll see what happens."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less