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.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”