NEW YORK -- Clay Buchholz will inch closer to a possible return to the Red Sox on Monday, when he pitches one inning of an instructional league game in Fort Myers, Fla.
Originally, the Sox had hoped to have Buchholz pitch an inning on Monday against the Orioles. But given the urgency of Boston's situation, it would be hard to have him pitch in a game for the first time since June 16.
"And the thought behind that was just that we really want him to pitch tomorrow," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "Stating the obvious, [Josh] Beckett is throwing tomorrow. We're playing a huge game. I don't know how we could ensure he's going to throw an inning. That's just impossible. So he'll go down there, throw an inning, and it can be a little bit controlled, but it can be also game speed. I think it might be about perfect. Then we'll re-evaluate him on Tuesday. We'll re-evaluate where we are and go from there."
The ideal scenario would be for the Red Sox to clinch a postseason berth before Wednesday, and have Buchholz pitch that night in Baltimore in the regular-season finale. That would give the club a better reading on whether he might be able to help out of the bullpen in the postseason.
But the Red Sox, knowing how important Buchholz is to their future, won't push the envelope. In fact, Francona continues to make no guarantees that the righty will pitch for the club again this season.
Buchholz has been recovering from a stress fracture in his back.
"Well, it is imperfect," Francona said. "And again, we've said all along, he may not pitch for us. This is just another step in him attempting to do this. We'll see. We have, I think, been pretty open about it all along that we'll see how it goes."