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Buchholz makes slow progress

He sees return for first round unlikely

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / September 7, 2011

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TORONTO - Josh Beckett was just landing in Boston about the time Clay Buchholz was walking out to the outfield at Rogers Centre to play catch with Red Sox pitching coach Curt Young yesterday.

Beckett will miss at least one start because of a badly sprained right ankle. His status beyond that is uncertain.

The return of Buchholz from a stress fracture in his lower back would add instant depth to a rotation suddenly looking thin. But while Buchholz is feeling much better, he said that returning before the end of the regular season, or even in the first round of the playoffs, is unlikely.

“It’s one thing that they’ve never really been able to tell me, is laying out a timetable,’’ he said. “It’s all how I feel. If I was to go out and throw in three days and it didn’t feel quite right, we’d probably take a step back. There’s no definite timeline.

“I’m not sure if the end of the season is going to be the right number. But if we do what we want to do in the postseason, get there and play well, that’s when I’m really looking.’’

Buchholz made 50 tosses from 90 feet yesterday, throwing with what he estimated was 70 percent effort.

“Effort level was a little bit higher,’’ he said. “It was good to test it out. Everything felt good, though.’’

Buchholz is scheduled to throw from 105 feet today. He would progress from there to 120 feet. Once the long tossing builds arm strength, he would return to 60 feet and throw from a windup off flat ground. The step after that would be getting on the mound.

Buchholz is on a program in which he throws for two days and takes a day off, so progress is slow. But he could get on the mound at some point during the next homestand.

“That’s where, I think, if anything was going to happen to this throwing program, it’s going to be something off the mound,’’ he said. “We’ll get to that point and see where it goes.’’

Once he takes the mound, Buchholz said, he will decrease his effort at first, to see how he feels.

Buchholz said a good barometer for his readiness would be the ability to throw 40 pitches off the mound - his usual bullpen session - without getting tired. Then he would have to face live hitters, perhaps at the team complex in Florida.

“Being in pitching shape and being in shape are two different things,’’ Buchholz said. “I’ve got to get back to that point, but all I can do is get off a mound and throw. It’s going to take a little bit of time for that. If that goes well, I think everything will be fine.’’

But even without any setbacks, there does not seem be enough time to build the arm strength required to start.

“That depends on how many bullpens I get to throw, how many times I get to get up and face hitters, whether they want to send me to Florida or whatever,’’ he said. “That’s the $1 million question, I guess.

“I’d like to be [a starter]. That’s what I’ve prepared my whole career for, to be able to pitch in the postseason, start games, and help this team win. If me going out there and not being ready to do it is not helping the team, I don’t want to do it.’’

Buchholz has made two relief appearances in his career, the last in 2008.

Injury report Jed Lowrie was out of the starting lineup for the third straight game because of what has been termed “fatigue’’ in his left shoulder. Manager Terry Francona said he wanted to give the infielder at least one more day of rest, but Lowrie came into the game in the seventh inning at first base . . . Conor Jackson, who bruised various parts of his body running full speed into the bullpen wall Sunday, took batting practice and is getting close to a return . . . There was no change in the status of J.D. Drew, who is out with a sprained knuckle on the middle finger of his right hand . . . The Sox are planning to start John Lackey against Tampa Bay Friday, with Kyle Weiland, who threw 22 pitches in two scoreless innings last night, and Jon Lester to follow . . . Infielder Nate Spears made his major league debut in the fifth, replacing Carl Crawford in left field.

Meet you there Major League Baseball and the Players Association are holding their latest round of collective bargaining talks in Toronto. About 10 Red Sox players attended yesterday’s session. Another meeting will be held today . . . Pawtucket will open up the International League playoffs tonight at Lehigh Valley. The best-of-five series will move to Pawtucket Friday, with Games 5 and 6, if needed, also at McCoy Stadium. Pawtucket was the only Red Sox affiliate to qualify for the postseason . . . Righthanded reliever Jason Rice, whom the Sox traded to Oakland for Jackson, was claimed off waivers by Cleveland and optioned to Triple A Columbus . . . Former Sox prospect Tim Federowicz, a catcher, was called up by the Dodgers yesterday. He was traded as part of the deal to obtain Erik Bedard.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.

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