Lester leaves with back injury after allowing no hits in 4 innings

Posted July 05, 2011, at 9:20 p.m.

BOSTON — Jon Lester left the Boston Red Sox game with a left back strain after keeping the Toronto Blue Jays hitless for four innings on Tuesday night.

The left-hander went to the clubhouse after striking out Adam Lind to end the top of the fourth. Matt Albers replaced Lester for the fifth with Boston leading 3-0 and allowed Toronto’s first hit, a two-out single in the sixth by Jose Bautista.

Lester (10-4) struck out five and walked one of the 13 batters he faced. Only one ball left the infield, a drive by Bautista to deep right-center that center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury tracked down.

In his previous start, Lester allowed two hits in seven scoreless innings in a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Phillies.

Morneau, Span healing

MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Morneau is working his way back from yet another injury, the only consolation this time being that he has a timeline for when he hopes to return to the field.

Morneau said on Tuesday that the surgery to relieve a pinched nerve in his neck went well and he is still planning to be back in a Minnesota Twins uniform sometime in August.

The first baseman had the surgery last week, and the Twins estimated a recovery period of six to eight weeks. That had some fans fearful that Morneau might be lost for the rest of the season, which is what happened last year when he went on the disabled list with a concussion in July and missed the final three months.

It’s why Morneau decided to have the surgery now rather than try to play through the pain and numbness he was feeling in his neck and left hand for the rest of the season.

“This was with the hopes of being able to play that last month-and-a-half, close to two months healthy and go into the offseason healthy, and hopefully talk about the playoffs and hopefully be healthy for the playoffs,” Morneau said. “That was the goal.”

Morneau has been resting since the surgery, and will continue to do so for the next 10 to 14 days, under doctors’ orders. He still has some slight numbness in his arm and pain in his neck, but team doctors say that is normal and a result of the surgery itself, not the injury that bothered him for most of the first half of the season.

He still can’t sit in the dugout with his teammates because he doesn’t have the range of motion to quickly dart out of the way of a foul ball. But he did say that his injured left wrist, which was also hampering his swing, was feeling much better after trainers removed his cast last week.

“It’s somewhere around six weeks before we play again, and hopefully that’s the case,” Morneau said. “It could be a little bit longer, it could be a little bit shorter, but at least with this, it’s a timeframe. That helps a little bit. It’s kind of a goal at the end of all of it. Instead of a daily check of ‘How’s this feel? Am I getting better?”’

That’s what center fielder Denard Span is going through right now. He was put on the disabled list almost a month ago with a concussion and has been slowly working his way back. He took early batting practice on Tuesday and will travel with the team to Chicago this week so he can ramp up his workouts and test out how he’s doing.

“It’s getting better,” Span said. “We’ll see how I feel tomorrow. Today was the first time going out there and pretty much had a full day.”

Morneau has been counseling Span on how to go about his rehab, advising him not to push it too hard too quickly and risk a setback.

“You just have to be patient with it,” Morneau said. “Obviously it’s been pretty frustrating for him. I’m trying to be there for him as much as I can.”

Span will head home to Florida for the All-Star break and be re-evaluated next week.

“Take it day to day, which is appropriate,” Span said. “But I think it’s about that time where we rev it up a little bit and see where I’m at. Push myself and if I respond well, then we can talk at the All-Star break about me getting back.”

Outfielder Jason Kubel returned to the Twin Cities on Tuesday to have his sprained left foot examined again after feeling pain in it during a rehab assignment in Florida. The Twins said Kubel had an MRI and doctors planned to meet with him Wednesday to discuss it.

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Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: http:///www.twitter.com/APkrawczynski.

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