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Good work for Buchholz

Throwing session looks encouraging

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / September 16, 2011

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The initial indications were that Clay Buchholz’s abbreviated bullpen session yesterday went well.

“Everything went fine,’’ reported Buchholz, who threw 15 pitches from halfway up the mound and 15 more from the top. “It’s never really hurt doing that; it’s been the day after, so we’ll talk then.’’

By then, the Red Sox should know more about whether Buchholz, who has been sidelined since June by a stress fracture in his back, can throw a full bullpen tomorrow, according to manager Terry Francona.

“It was pouring, and he felt good,’’ Francona reported before last night’s 9-2 loss to the Rays at Fenway Park. “So that was good news still.

“If there comes a point where we need to slow him down, we will. A couple of things we’re trying to accomplish is that we haven’t closed the door on the fact that he might be able to pitch [this season], which is certainly important.

“The other thing is we want him to go home feeling good about himself, because this kid is an important part of not only our present but our future, so it’s come together pretty well. He’s done a good job.’’

Asked if there is a timetable for Buchholz, Francona said, “We have an obligation to map some things out, but it’s going to all go on how he feels, how he throws.

“You’re talking about a guy who hasn’t thrown very much, so if he gets on the mound and his back feels great, he still needs to pitch, so we need to take all those things under consideration.’’

Youkilis will sit Francona said Kevin Youkilis, who started at third last night despite being nagged by left hip bursitis and a hernia that will require surgery at season’s end, will not play tonight.

“I actually talked to him a little bit before the game and had a good talk with him and we’ll watch him,’’ said Francona. “He’s nowhere near pulling the plug on the season or anything like that, but I think it’s pretty obvious he’s struggling out there, so we’ll see.’’

Youkilis departed in the sixth after going 0 for 3 and was replaced by Mike Aviles, who could get the start tonight after Francona said Jed Lowrie, who underwent a cortisone injection Tuesday on his left shoulder, would also not be available.

Set in their ways Given Daniel Bard’s struggles of late, Francona was asked about utilizing his eighth-inning setup man in another role as the team heads down the homestretch.

“No, I don’t think so,’’ Francona said. “I think we’d be kidding ourselves. I don’t think we can win without Bard being Bard.

“Last year at this time, everybody wanted Bard to be the closer. We stuck with Pap [Jonathan Papelbon], and we were OK. I think there’s certain players where we’d better figure it out as opposed to running from guys.’’

Bard surrendered three runs (two earned) in the eighth inning of Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to Toronto. It marked his fifth blown save and eighth loss of the season, the most by a Sox reliever since Derek Lowe had 10 losses in 2001.

Bard yesterday went about his business of addressing the issues with his delivery.

“It’s just getting a little bit more of a consistent feel with his arm swing where he’s more consistent with his release point,’’ Francona said. “Now, saying that, if you go back and look at his good streak, he can vary it then, too. So you want to keep it in perspective also.’’

Sluggers return David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez returned to the lineup last night. Ortiz missed two games with back spasms, and Gonzalez left Wednesday’s game because of tightness in his left calf.

“I don’t think you’re going to see Gonzy steal a base - I don’t think you’re going to see him steal a base when he’s 100 percent,’’ Francona said. “But he feels good enough to play, which is great.

“David, he’s still sore, but he’s good enough to play.’’

Ortiz took batting practice and kept limber by having a heating pad bandaged to his back. He was the first Red Sox player to reach base, hitting a leadoff single to right in the second inning. Ortiz finished 2 for 2 with an intentional walk.

After the Rays scored four in the top of the third, Gonzalez drove in Boston’s first run with a bases-loaded ground out. He finished 0 for 3.

“Both of them wouldn’t play if they didn’t think they could be productive,’’ Francona said. “Or we wouldn’t let them play.’’

Beckett’s turn Josh Beckett will take the mound tonight for the first time since Sept. 5 in Toronto, where he suffered a sprained right ankle and left his start after 3 2/3 innings.

Beckett (12-5, 2.49 ERA) owns a 6-1 record vs. Tampa during his time in Boston. He will be opposed by righthander James Shields (15-10, 2.70 ERA).

Francona said he would treat Beckett’s outing as a regular start, but remain cautious.

“He hasn’t been out very long, but we reserve the right to see how he’s feeling,’’ the manager said. “It’s one of those days where we’ll check with him.

“Just because he may look like he’s cruising, I wouldn’t want to send him back out there if he was laboring inside. We’ll keep an eye on him.’’

Hit streak snapped Jacoby Ellsbury went 0 for 4, snapping his hitting streak at 18 games . . . Jose Iglesias recorded his first major league hit with a ninth-inning single . . . Joey Gathright, who drew a walk and scored in the ninth, made his first major league appearance since Oct. 4, 2009 . . . Andrew Miller tossed 1 2/3 innings of relief, allowing two hits while striking out four in his first relief appearance since Aug. 10.

Michael Vega can be reached at

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