David Ortiz expected to return to the Red Sox on April 19

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David Ortiz continues to make steady recent progress in his recovery from heel inflammation.

According to beat writer Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, the veteran designated hitter is scheduled to begin a minor league rehab assignment on Thursday at Triple-A Pawtucket and is on track to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on April 19.

Ortiz has been playing in extended spring training games for the past few days in south Florida and should be cleared for major league action after making around 20-30 minor league at-bats.

The 37-year-old hit .318/.415/.611 with 23 homers and 60 RBI in 90 games last season. Daniel Nava and Jonny Gomes have been getting most of the playing time at designated hitter in Big Papi’s absence.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with left ankle injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.