TORONTO -- Clay Buchholz continues to develop cautious optimism as he goes through his throwing program. For the second straight day, the righty played catch at Rogers Centre, throwing 50 pitches at 90 feet.
"Effort level was a little bit higher today. It was good to test it out. Everything felt good, though," said Buchholz, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his lower back and hasn't pitched since June 16.
If things keep progressing, Buchholz hopes the team will give him clearance next week at Fenway to take the most pivotal test to date: throwing off a mound.
"If everything goes right -- and I think I'm doing two days on, one day off -- if there's enough days, that's what we're going to do hopefully for sure while we're home, I'll be able to put some spikes on and get off a mound and see how it feels," Buchholz said.
Once Buchholz throws off the mound, he will likely know just how far he's come in his recovery.
At first, he said, his intensity will be lighter off the mound than it's been during his sessions of catch.
"I don't want to rush back as far as throwing off a mound -- just the slope and gravity and everything," Buchholz said. "I'll try to throw light off the mound. It definitely won't be as many throws as I'm throwing right now."
Given the calendar, it still looks as if Buchholz's best chance of pitching this season would come if the Red Sox got to at least the American League Championship Series. That said, he hasn't ruled out anything.
"If I was to go out and throw in three days and it doesn't feel quite right, we'd probably take a step back," Buchholz said. "There's definitely no timeline. If everything goes right and I'm able to not have any setbacks and get off a mound and start working my way back up, I'm not sure the end of the season is going to be the right number. If we do what we want to do in the postseason, get there and play well, that's what I'm really hoping for."
While there would be less progression for Buchholz to return as a reliever, he said his preference is still 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," Buchholz said. "That's the million dollar question, I guess. I don't know. 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. I want to do it to help this team win."
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.