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Buchholz not elevating game

Righty isn’t ready for bullpen session

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By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / July 23, 2011

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Clay Buchholz, who last played June 16 because of a lower back strain, was supposed to begin throwing off the mound yesterday. Instead, he had a long-toss session, a development viewed as something of a setback in Buchholz’s protracted attempt to return to action.

“He did the long toss again,’’ said manager Terry Francona. “We just felt like - and Buch included - one more time doing the long toss and, if all goes well, then maybe going to a bullpen Sunday or Monday.’’

Buchholz said he threw “with some pretty good intensity,’’ but indicated, “It’s the down time after I throw that the soreness comes. I still got a little of stuff there.’’

Buchholz was positive after the long toss.

“It’s definitely better, it’s getting better every day,’’ he said. “I still got a little bit of stuff going on in there and it’s already taken way too long for this, in my mind, but I’m already on the DL and it can’t get any worse than it was at the beginning and it hasn’t gotten any worse.

“I want to be out there pitching just as much as anyone else,’’ Buchholz said. “I had a picture in my head of coming back early next month and that’s still what I want to do. But, like I said before, I don’t want to go out there and pitch one outing and have to go back on the DL because it flares up again.’’

Reddick in; Drew sits When he was down in Pawtucket earlier this year, Josh Reddick expressed some frustration because he didn’t get enough playing time during spring training.

The Red Sox had acquired left fielder Carl Crawford, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury was healthy and looking good, veteran J.D. Drew was prepared to reprise his role as the team’s right fielder, and Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald were being counted on to provide depth.

So, given the crowded situation, Reddick knew he was going to have to wait for his opportunity - and seize it - when it presented itself.

That opportunity seems to have arrived. Last night, Francona benched the struggling Drew, who is hitting .219, and penciled in the hot-hitting Reddick, who had hit .378 since his May 26 recall from Pawtucket.

“He’s swinging the bat awfully well, it’s kind of hard not to play him,’’ Francona said before last night’s game against Seattle.

“I actually called J.D. [Thursday] night just to tell him what we were going to do, out of respect for him,’’ Francona said. “A little bit like [Jed] Lowrie early in the season, I just think Josh deserves to play. He’s given us such a lift in our lineup.’’

Francona was asked how Drew took the news of his demotion. “He was fine. He said he understood. I think he does. I think J.D. cares more than people realize,’’ Francona said. “I also told him that we’d never give up on him, either. We’ve also talked about what J.D. has in there and if it comes out, we would love that, too.

“So, I’d love to be in a position where it’s hard to figure out who’s going to play [right field],’’ Francona said. “If that’s a dilemma, it’s a good one to have.’’

In 30 games, Reddick has energized the Sox with 13 extra-base hits (including four home runs), 20 runs, 18 RBIs, and a team-leading .651 slugging percentage. All totaled, it was easy for Francona to start Reddick in right field and pencil him into the No. 7 hole.

“It’s a great feeling, being a part of a lineup like this,’’ said Reddick, who went 1 for 4 in last night’s 7-4 victory over the Mariners.

“It’s a good feeling inside, when they believe in me like they do,’’ Reddick said. “Knowing they do believe in me is a huge thing.’’

Whether Reddick turns this opportunity into an everyday role remains to be seen.

“As much as we want to win games, I think at the moment, Red gives us a better chance, so that’s what we’re doing,’’ Francona said.

Lester on track Francona said lefthander Jon Lester, who has been on the DL since July 6 with a left latissimus strain, was on pace to start Monday against the Royals. Lester confirmed as much after conducting a side session, which was part of his usual regimen between starts.

Asked if the start would help him put to rest any issues with the injury, Lester said, “I don’t need the start to put it to rest. We’ve tested it enough and this is the third time I’ve been on the mound. I’ve had plenty of long toss, so it’s definitely not something that’s on my mind.’’

Lester said if that were the case, “I wouldn’t go on the mound,’’ he said.

Pedroia keeps rolling Dustin Pedroia extended his career-high hitting streak to 19 games with a first-inning single to left, and went 3 for 3 with a walk, pushing his average to .299 . . . Francona expressed little concern about David Ortiz’s three-game suspension having an adverse effect. “He still hit,’’ Francona said, referring to Ortiz’s work in the batting cage. Ortiz, who hasn’t played since Sunday, hit fifth and was 1 for 3 with an RBI . . . Francona recorded his 999th career victory . . . The Sox improved to 60-37, reaching the 60-win mark in their 97th game, the club’s fastest to 60 wins since 1979 (95th game) . . . Former Sox third baseman Mike Lowell returned to Fenway for a visit with his old teammates. “He looked good,’’ Francona said. “Seems to be moving around better than he was before.’’ . . . The official temperature at game time was 96 degrees. Ninety minutes earlier, a thermometer propped in front of the Sox dugout read 101 degrees.

Globe correspondent Nicole Auerbach contributed to this report. Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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