Five-game losing streak and really bad road trip aside, a couple of bright spots did emerge yesterday.

Josh Beckett's sprained right ankle has improved to the point where he is scheduled to throw a side session in the bullpen at Fenway Park today. If that goes well, he could return to the rotation later in the week.

"I think that might be a little ambitious,'' Red Sox manager Terry Francona said in response to the suggestion that Thursday would be a nice day to pitch. "I think he wants to do (the side session), which is a good sign. We'll see how he does."

And Clay Buchholz (back) is one good long-toss session away from having his own side session scheduled. While it appears improbable Buchholz will have sufficient time to build up enough arm strength to return to the rotation in the 16 games remaining, a move to the bullpen — or a return to the rotation in the potential postseason — is becoming more realistic.

"Clay is doing really well,'' Francona said.