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Progress for Buchholz

30 pitches thrown off bullpen mound

By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / September 18, 2011

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The possibility of Clay Buchholz pitching for the Red Sox again this season gained traction yesterday when the righthander threw 30 pitches off the mound in the bullpen.

Buchholz was on the field about four hours before the Sox played the Rays. With Conor Jackson standing at the plate with a bat and Ryan Lavarnway catching, Buchholz went through his usual routine of pitches.

It was his first time in the bullpen since early August. Buchholz has been on the disabled list since June 17 with a stress fracture in his back.

“I felt good,’’ Buchholz said. “No issues with the back today. It felt fine. If anything, arm strength is not quite there.’’

Buchholz estimated he was throwing at 75-80 percent and plans to build from there with each session. He lacked command of his cutter and sinker, which he expected. His four-seam fastball and changeup were better.

“It’ll probably be 100 percent by the third time,’’ Buchholz said.

The Sox would like the next step to be a simulated game tomorrow. But with a doubleheader scheduled against Baltimore, logistics become an issue.

“I don’t know how the heck we could do that on Monday unless we bring some people out of the stands,’’ manager Terry Francona said. “We’ll figure it out.’’

Francona said the goal remains for Buchholz to pitch again this season. Whether that comes before the end of the regular season is the question.

“My thought process hasn’t ever been pitching in the regular season,’’ said Buchholz. “I want to be back for the playoffs. If we work up to that point and I feel good enough to pitch in that last series, I’ll see where I’m at.

“The goal is to pitch in the playoffs and help this team win.’’

Buchholz acknowledged that he likely would have to pitch in relief, given the lack of time to build up enough arm strength to start.

Bedard on a mound For the first time since Sept. 3, when he made his last start, Erik Bedard threw off a mound. The lefty had a bullpen session after Buchholz, a significant step in his return from a sore left knee and a strained left lat.

The Sox have not decided when Bedard will return to the rotation.

“I don’t know,’’ Francona said. “We’ll see. We have some moving parts right now.’’

The Sox have not named a starter for the first game of the doubleheader. John Lackey will start the nightcap.

Lowrie close to returning Jed Lowrie, who had a cortisone shot in his sore left shoulder Tuesday, looked good in batting practice and is getting closer to a return. He has not played since getting the injection.

“I told them I could play. That was as good as I’ve felt in a long time,’’ Lowrie said. “I had a lot more bat speed.’’

Lowrie does not know if his shoulder will require surgery after the season.

Francona had no update on the condition of Kevin Youkilis, who missed his second straight game because of assorted injuries. The Sox are hoping time off will enable Youkilis to play again this season.

“He’s pretty sore,’’ Francona said. “The Youk thing . . . I don’t know.’’

The problem for Francona is weighing whether Youkilis at 75 percent is better than a lesser player who is healthy.

“It’s very difficult. That’s the hard thing,’’ Francona said. “It’s hard for Youk. It is a little bit of a conundrum.’’

Francona then laughed at his use of an SAT vocabulary word.

“If I knew how to Tweet, I’d Tweet that,’’ he said. “Maybe [Rays manager] Joe Maddon will for me.’’

Mike Aviles started at third again. He is 4 for 7 with a home run the last two days and is 7 of his last 12 overall.

Minor league awards The Sox named Lavarnway and Single A outfielder Bryce Brentz their minor league Co-Offensive Players of the Year.

Lavarnway hit .290 with 23 doubles, 32 homers, and 93 RBIs in 116 games for Double A Portland and Triple A Pawtucket. Brentz hit .306 with 25 doubles, 30 homers, and 94 RBIs in Single A.

Alex Wilson was selected as the Pitcher of the Year after going 10-4 with a 3.11 ERA for Portland and Pawtucket.

The Defensive Player of the Year was catcher Christian Vazquez of Single A Greenville. He had just nine errors and threw out 33 percent of base-stealers.

Felix Sanchez of Greenville was named Baserunner of the Year after stealing 55 bases in 65 attempts.

The Latin Program Players of the Year were lefthander Pedro Reyes and outfielder Ynoel Aguero.

The Sox also started a Lou Gorman Award for perseverance en route to making the big leagues. The winner was lefthander Tommy Hottovy.

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

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