Buchholz throws pain-free simulated game

Buchholz throws pain-free simulated game

Buchholz throws pain-free simulated game
BOSTON -- Clay Buchholz threw 32 pain-free pitches from the Fenway Park mound in a simulated game on Tuesday, pushing the right-hander closer to a return to game action.

"Location wasn't what it should be, which is expected, but the ball's coming out of my hand [well] and [there's] no problem with the back," said Buchholz, who is recovering from a lower back stress fracture. "It feels good."

Buchholz said his next side session would come Thursday or Friday after he threw at 85 to 90 percent on a soggy field, but manager Terry Francona didn't outline any future plans, saying he wanted to wait to see how Buchholz felt Wednesday. General manager Theo Epstein, who watched Buchholz alongside Francona, told NESN the idea was for Buchholz to do one more side session and then see some big league action.

Buchholz said previously that it would be in this upcoming session at the end of the week that he could throw at 100 percent effort.

Since the full extent of Buchholz's back injury became clear in early August, a return before the regular season ended hasn't been a priority, with the goal instead to have him in shape for the playoffs. There also appeared to be the thinnest of chances that Buchholz could return as a starter.

"When we first talked about it," said Buchholz Tuesday, "I didn't think we'd be doing bullpens at this point."

With the Red Sox in need of starting pitching and Buchholz coming along quickly, he said Tuesday that switching to a relief role at this point in the year was not being looked at as the best idea, and that he could end up piggy-backing with Alfredo Aceves in a starting tandem.

In another sign he was thinking about starting, Buchholz also said Tuesday he wasn't sure if he'd pitch in the team's final regular season series in Baltimore: "I don't know if I'll be able to build up to throw five innings. That's the team's call if they want me to come back, get some innings in."

However, manager Terry Francona said Wednesday that starting was not an option for Buchholz.

"Buch didn't say that [he could be used in a starting role]. Buch -- he threw an inning and a half [on Tuesday]," Francona said. "He can't start right now. He knows that. He means next year. He's not ready to start. He can't do that. He's not stretched out enough."

No matter the role for Buchholz, the Sox pitching staff could use any infusion it can get.

"Obviously, nobody wants to sit out two-and-a-half months, three months. It's been tough watching the guys go out there," Buchholz said. "Even when we're playing good, I want to go out there. It's tough right now. Like I said, I'm trying to get to the point where I can come back and help this team win."