BOSTON (CBS) — The Red Sox are about to get one of their best players back.

Shortstop Xander Bogaerts was cleared by doctors on Thursday and is ready to rejoin the Red Sox after an 18-day stint on the disabled list with an ankle injury. He’ll be back in the Boston lineup on Friday when they open a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park.

“I talked to him today and he was very upbeat,” Red Sox manager Alex Cora told reporters ahead of Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays in Toronto. “He didn’t have to convince me. He was emphatic and genuine and he said it with conviction. He’s upbeat and we’re looking forward to having him back at shortstop in the middle of the lineup. It seems like — I know it’s [just] a rehab game — but his swing is still there.”

Bogaerts has been out since suffering a small crack in his left ankle back on April 8. He made one rehab start with the Pawtucket Red Sox on Tuesday, going 2-for-3 with a home run and double against Toledo on Tuesday. He was slated to make a second rehab appearance on Wednesday but the game was rained out.

The Boston lineup has been extremely lefty-heavy since Bogaerts went down and has struggled against southpaws in his absence, hitting just .212. Cora said the return of Bogaert’s right-handed bat will create more balance in the lineup.

“We’re very left-handed right now. The way he was driving the ball, it’s important to have him there, then the rest of the guys will fall into place,” said Cora. “You don’t put as much pressure to the other guys. There’s a consistent one through five. There’s a reason he’s hitting fifth — he’s a difference-maker.”

Bogaerts was one of Boston’s best hitters before getting hurt, hitting .368 with two homers, seven doubles and nine RBIs.


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