CHICACO -- Carl Crawford was throwing the ball so well in pregame exercises on Sunday that Clay Buchholz went from left field to right field to give his teammate some positive reinforcement.

It has been a long road back for the left fielder, who was first battling back from left wrist surgery and then was diagnosed with an ulnar collateral ligament sprain in his left elbow.

Crawford hasn't played for the Red Sox in 2012, but finally is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"I'm definitely feeling better about my chances of getting back on the field," said Crawford. "It should be pretty soon here. Hopefully I won't have any setbacks and I'll be back in the big leagues playing."

When the Red Sox return home to open a homestand this week, Crawford will continue to ramp up his throwing program. He could be closing in on a Minor League rehab assignment in the near future.

"Still just working on it," Crawford said. "I've only been throwing for four days. Nobody can get well that quick. I've still got a few things to do. But at some point, I'll be getting out of here pretty soon."

Adrian out of lineup for first time this season

CHICAGO -- It happens only once or twice every season for Adrian Gonzalez. The Red Sox decided to make Sunday that rare time when Gonzalez was not in the starting lineup, marking the first time that has happened in 2012.

Over the previous five seasons, Gonzalez has averaged 160 games per season.

The Red Sox have a team off-day on Monday, which gives Gonzalez two days of rest before the opener of a homestand on Tuesday.

Gonzalez has been rotating between right field and first base over the last several weeks and has struggled to get in a sustained groove offensively.

"He's just done everything we've asked," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "For him to give any inkling that a day is needed and for me not to receive the message would be something I'd regret. It's been a tough stretch for him. He's been grinding it out every day and, you know, going out to right field."

Valentine began to sense in the late innings on Saturday that this was a good time to get Gonzalez a blow.

"Matter of fact, he was out on the bases when I made the defensive switch yesterday and for the first time, he was even thinking about coming off the field [instead of moving from right field to first base]," Valentine said. "That was my first inkling. But he also thinks the game. Knows who's coming up before him, it would probably be a situation that would be best suited on the lineup card to keep [David Ortiz] in, I just decided to protect that one run."

Gonzalez is hitting .265 with five homers and 35 RBIs.

In his absence, Ortiz played first, Kevin Youkilis was at third and Darnell McDonald was in right during a 7-4 win over the Cubs. Gonzalez entered as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning and struck out with two runners on base.

Sweeney to get break, goes on DL

CHICAGO -- Perhaps Ryan Sweeney could have kept playing through the pain caused by the irritation in the sesamoid bone in his left foot. But the Red Sox decided it made more sense for the left-handed hitter to go on the disabled list and regain his health, so that's what he did before Sunday night's game against the Cubs.

Ryan Kalish was promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket to replace Sweeney on the roster.

"You know, he's moving decent in the outfield, he's doing everything he can," Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine said. "I mean, he's a trooper. We knew we needed him and we were short and he kept going out there. It just got to a point where it was really adversely affecting his swing."

Sweeney got a cortisone shot to alleviate the pain, but that also means he needs to stay off his foot for a few days.

"It's just one of those things where I'm not even able to run for like a week or something like that," Sweeney said. "We really don't have enough players right now to be doing that because [Daniel] Nava had a cortisone shot, too. I guess I was just an odd-man out."

Sweeney, who is hitting .292 with no homers and 13 RBIs, didn't dispute that the injury might have been affecting his performance.

"Basically, I have bone on bone, or something like that," Sweeney said. "And it's on my back foot when I swing, I'm kind of just out in front of everything right now because I can't really sit on my back side.

"I try not to think about it when I'm out there. It hurts after I get done running. I'd like to say that it didn't affect me. I've gotten lucky because I haven't gotten a lot of balls the last couple days. But playing center field, you cover a lot of ground, you've got to try to get what you can. I'm just kind of limited."

Ross, Bard have productive days at Pawtucket

CHICAGO -- Long before the Red Sox took the field against the Cubs on Sunday night, two familiar names had productive days for Triple-A Pawtucket.

Outfielder Cody Ross, who has been sidelined with a fractured navicular bone in his left foot, went 0-for-4, but felt fine running around in the outfield.

He will go back to Boston on Monday and be re-evaluated by Boston's medical staff. If all goes well, Ross could be activated for Tuesday night's game against the Marlins at Fenway.

"He could be activated. Real strong report on him today, in everything he did," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine.

Meanwhile, righty Daniel Bard, who was demoted to Pawtucket on June 5 after a rough stint in the starting rotation, had perhaps his best performance since being sent down.

Pitching out of the bullpen, Bard went two innings, allowing two hits and striking out two. He didn't walk anyone and had good velocity.

"He did good," said Valentine. "Threw it harder anyway. [Sunday] was really the first time they liked what they saw. He got up to 95 on the radar gun."

While Bard has been pitching every couple of days out of the bullpen, the Red Sox are keeping their options open on what role the righty works in when he returns to the team.