Red Sox keeping close tabs on Buchholz

Red Sox keeping close tabs on Buchholz

BALTIMORE -- Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz pitched his first competitive inning in over three months, working an 18-pitch session in an instructional league game in Fort Myers, Fla.

If Boston can clinch a postseason berth by Tuesday, there's a likelihood that Buchholz will pitch for the Sox in Wednesday's regular-season finale against the Orioles.

However, if Boston's season is riding on Wednesday's game, Buchholz will instead go back to Florida and get another tuneup there.

"It would be kind of hard to treat [a crucial game No. 162] as instructional league," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.

The last time Buchholz pitched for Boston was June 16. He has been recovering from a stress fracture in his back.

The Red Sox have never come out and said Buchholz will pitch for them in the postseason, particularly in the American League Division Series. If he does return, it will be as a reliever, because there is no time to get him stretched out as a starter.

The Red Sox have better chance of knowing how viable that possibility is if he could pitch in front of them before the regular season ends.

In the meantime, the club will monitor his systems and their own postseason positioning, and try to make the best decision.

"Health-wise, [he did] really good," said Francona. "[He's] a little bit rusty facing hitters. Clay will come back here, get evaluated. We'll see where we are; then he'll either pitch for us Wednesday or go back to instructional league."