Dustin Pedroia returns from disabled list

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After 15 days off due to a thumb injury, Dustin Pedroia was activated from the disabled list Thursday and will be back in the lineup for the final game of the series against the White Sox.

Mauro Gomez was sent down to make room, as the Red Sox opted to keep both Pedro Ciriaco and Nick Punto as utilitymen.

Ciriaco was terrific while filling in for Pedroia, hitting .400 with six RBI and three steals in nine games. It will be interesting to see if the Red Sox start giving him some time over Mike Aviles at shortstop. He is the better defender of the two, and while he can’t match Aviles’ power, it’s as though Aviles has been a real asset with his .286 on-base percentage this season.

Update: Boston has Pedroia hitting third behind Carl Crawford tonight, with Adrian Gonzalez in the cleanup spot. Ciriaco is DHing and batting ninth.

Kyle Schwarber is “probably, arguably” in The Best Shape of His Life

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Joe Maddon just held his annual media availability here at the Winter Meetings. During the scrum he said that Kyle Schwarber “looked great the other day” at a Cubs community event and that . . . wait for it . . . “he’s in, probably, arguably in the best shape of his life.” Maddon went on to say that, if Schwarber looks good in spring training, he might even be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2018.

Schwarber is only 24, but the former catcher turned outfielder is going to spend most of his career as a DH, with another team obviously, unless he shows the Cubs that he can be a regular defender. The Cubs would love to see him in better shape whether they keep him or shop him, and if it’s the latter, they’ll want to show potential trade partners that he can play defense so as not to limit his market. It’s in everyone’s interests for him to be lean, mean and a bit more flexible once spring training starts.

To that end, according to a recent report, Schwarber “has been on a mission this offseason to transform his body.” And now Maddon is playing up the BSOHL angle. Whether that’s salesmanship or not, all eyes are going to be on Schwarber come February.