The Boston Red Sox are taking a slow and cautious approach with Augusta GreenJackets third baseman Tony Blanco, whose sore right shoulder has prevented him from playing the field for the past three weeks.
The 19-year-old Blanco, considered the top foreign third base prospect in the minors, was flown to Boston during the South Atlantic League All-Star break for an MRI to determine the extent of the injury.
No significant damage was revealed, and the Dominican slugger was prescribed anti-inflammatory medication by team doctors. The Red Sox also prescribed rest for his ailing shoulder, instructing him not to throw for 14 days.
Blanco said Thursday his shoulder has improved, and that he should be ready to return to the field sometime next week.
He also missed the latter part of spring training because of shoulder soreness and began the season in rehab before joining the Jackets April 27.
"It feels much better now, and I feel I am almost ready," said Blanco, rated Boston's third-best prospect by Baseball America.
While his sore shoulder directly affects Blanco's throwing, his production at the plate also has dropped off since the injury flared up again earlier this month.
After opening the season with an 18-game hitting streak and ending the month of May with a .282 average, six home runs and 19 RBI, Blanco has struggled in June. He has just five hits in his past 41 at-bats and has not homered in 64 plate appearances. His average has dipped to .235.
"I'm starting to feel I'm getting my swing back," said Blanco, who has been the Jackets' designated hitter his past 14 starts. "I've been taking a lot of extra swings in the cage, and I'm starting to hit the ball hard again."
The Jackets were rained out in Thursday's scheduled opener of a four-game series against Capital City, and with the off-day on Wednesday, the additional rest should benefit Blanco.
"Boston is being extra careful with him, but he's going to be fine," Jackets manager Mike Boulanger said. "He'll be reevaluated in a few more days, and hopefully he'll be ready to go."
Reach Rob Mueller at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today: Doubleheader (two seven-inning games) - Augusta GreenJackets (1-5 second half, 43-33 overall) vs. Capital City Bombers (4-2, 34-38), 6:15 p.m.
Probable starters: Capital City - RHP Bob Keppel (1-4, 3.61) and LHP Neal Musser (6-3, 2.68); Augusta - LHP Luis Perez (5-5, 3.56) and RHP Rene Miniel (5-3, 4.06).