PHILADELPHIA -- Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz conceded before Wednesday night's game against the Phillies that there's a strong chance his next start won't come until after the All-Star break.
Thanks to a lower back strain, Buchholz hasn't pitched since June 16. He had held out hope a few days ago that he could return on July 4 at Fenway against the Blue Jays, but the righty no longer seems confident he can make it back that soon.
"[I'm] probably set back a little bit," Buchholz said. "I'd rather come back after the All-Star break and be healthy, if that's the case, unless something happens that what we're doing is going to make it feel better in the next three or four days and then I could look at pitching when we get back home. I want to make sure I'm ready for August and September.
"If something happens and I go out and pitch and feel 80 percent, then this happens again and I have to go back on the DL, that's not what I, or I don't think the team wants. That's where we're at right now."
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein agreed that a post All-Star break return was realistic for Buchholz.
"We're going to go slow with this one, and as [manager Terry Francona] said, make sure he's 100 percent before he gets back on the mound," Epstein said. "I don't have an answer for you on that one. Things would have to improve pretty quickly here for him to have a chance to do that."
A couple of days ago, Buchholz went out and threw with hope that the back issue would be cleared out. But he could tell it wasn't.
"Just going out and throwing, I wanted it 100 percent gone before I pitch again, and it was still there," said Buchholz. "I definitely didn't think it was going to be there like it was. Yeah, I expected to go out and throw ... I didn't expect it to be completely gone, but it just didn't get better as quick as I thought it was going to, so that's where we're at right now."
Buchholz and the Red Sox both think it would be counterproductive for him to try to grind through the injury at this point. As it is, it has lingered since late last season.
"Hopefully I can get this out of the way and come back at 100 percent and not have to worry about it for the rest of the season, and hopefully it's gone forever and I'll never have to worry about it. That's the outlook I have on it right now," Buchholz said. "I'm sort of disappointed the last couple of days after I threw a couple of days ago. There's nothing I can do about it except keep treating it, and hopefully it gets better."
In the meantime, Buchholz is happy that the Red Sox have pitchers like Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller and Alfredo Aceves at their disposal.
"We have depth, so that's a good thing. Someone else can take the ball and I can feel like there's not any fall-off," Buchholz said.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.