BOSTON -- By Clay Buchholz's estimation, he should be able to throw at 100 percent after two more side sessions.
Returning from a back injury, the right-hander threw 30 pitches on Saturday afternoon with a batter standing in at Fenway Park, and it remains possible Buchholz could return before the regular season ends.
"I felt good today: 30 pitches from 60 feet. Threw everything," Buchholz said. "Had Conor Jackson standing in as a hitter, gave a little bit more feel to it. Had no issues with the back today; it felt fine. If anything, the arm strength's not quite there with the four-seamer. But there are no issues as far as the back goes."
Said Jackson: "He looked good. He had life on his fastball, a good changeup, a good curveball. To me, he looked like he was letting go, so if if he was holding back, that's a good thing."
Buchholz estimated he was throwing at 75 to 80 percent, and said the afternoon start time -- the Rays and Red Sox began play at 4:10 p.m. ET -- meant his session came a little earlier than it normally would for a night game, throwing him off slightly. But, he nonetheless felt strong.
The next step for Buchholz is more dependent on logistics than health, manager Terry Francona said. The team would like him to throw again on Monday, possibly a simulated game, but with the Red Sox playing the Orioles in a doubleheader that day, it may not be possible to schedule a throwing session.
"Can we get him to throw in between? Do we need to just maybe wait til Tuesday? We'll figure that out," Francona said. "And again, that's not because of Clay, it's the circumstances with the two games."
Francona didn't rule out a return for Buchholz before the regular season ends, and neither did the pitcher himself. But Buchholz isn't overly concerned about that -- he just wants to be back for October baseball. Three more sessions, it seems, and he could be close to where he needs to be.
"Depends on how many more [bullpen sessions] I get to throw. I'll probably throw three more," Buchholz said. "No pain added, there's a good chance I can be 100 percent by the third one."