Clay Buchholz: 'Mentally, I'm ready. ... I'm comfortable pitching now' (and other Red Sox pregame notes)

September 08, 2013 - 9:12 am

NEW YORK -- Three months to the day after he last pitched in a big league game, Clay Buchholz cleared his final hurdle on his way back to the Red Sox rotation from the inflammation of the bursa sac in his right shoulder. There were times, the right-hander acknowledged, when he feared he might not be able to return this year, most notably around the time that he ended up seeing Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Fla. But now, those doubts have been vanquished. Buchholz, after a bullpen session that represented the final prerequisite to a return to the rotation, said that he feels no residue of the shoulder injury that cost him half the season. He is slated to start against the Rays in Tampa Bay on Tuesday, and he is ready for what is expected to be an outing (after he built his workload to 71 pitches in his final minor league tuneup on Thursday) to approximately 75-80 pitches. "At a certain point, yeah, I didn't really think I'd be able to throw or let it go again. That's what I was feeling. That feeling's gone, and I feel good now," he said. "Mentally I'm ready. I think that's what everyone was questioning -- mental toughness and everything. But I know my body better than everybody else does. I'm comfortable pitching now. There's nothing wrong that's come up." That being the case, Buchholz said that he's optimistic that he can look like the same pitcher who went 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 12 starts to open the year. He may not be able to repeat those results, but with up to four big league starts in front of him (after three minor league rehab starts), the right-hander feels that by the end of the regular season -- and, perhaps more importantly, the start of the playoffs -- he will be the pitcher whom the Sox expect him to be. "A lot of things have to go right for [a roll like the one at the start of the year] to happen. Definitely, that's what I want to do, that's what I want to get back to. At the same time, you have to have the right days of the guys scoring runs and you not giving up any. It doesn't happen like that all the time. So, I'm going to try to get as close as I can to it," said Buchholz. "As of right now, I hopefully have four starts left in the season. That's for us to keep winning and get ready for the starts in October. That's when everything really matters. We've got to get there first. But I want to make sure I'm ready for that. That's the only goal I have in my head right now is to be ready." Buchholz marveled that the Sox are now up 8 1/2 games in the AL East as he nears his return, though he noted that he did not take that lead for granted. "I guess you don't have to put too much pressure on yourself. We've got a little bit of a cushion. But I've been through it before where that disappears really quick," he said, alluding to the team's collapse in 2011. "Obviously we still want to come out and win games. That's my goal in my mind, to come back and be out there and try to help the team win." OTHER RED SOX NOTES -- Manager John Farrell said that the Sox would wait until after Buchholz's bullpen session on Sunday before making an announcement about who will leave the rotation. He did suggest that the decision about who would stay and who would be bumped from the group of starters would be based not on who might be able to help in the bullpen, but instead on who was delivering the most consistent, quality performances in the rotation. "I think the transition to the bullpen is probably less the factor in this. You'€™ve got to look at, one, we still have a number of games remaining. We want to and we need to put ourselves in the best position to win nightly," said Farrell. "You have to look at the guys that are currently showing that consistency and keeping the game under control through the time they're on the mound. There are a couple things to factor, but the priority is, who's the most effective starter right now?" In that vein, it's worth noting that while Ryan Dempster has struggled in the second half to a 6.08 ERA in eight starts, he has gone at least five innings in each outing, and the Sox have gone 7-1 in those appearances. Felix Doubront, meanwhile, has a 4.58 ERA in 10 starts in the second half, with the Sox going 7-3 in those outings. However, he has failed to record an out in the fifth inning in four of his last six starts, with a 6.60 ERA in that time. -- With the Red Sox bullpen having been drained over the no-lead-is-safe series against the Yankees, the team summoned right-hander Allen Webster from Pawtucket. The Sox want a pitcher capable of delivering multiple innings out of the bullpen both given their bullpen depletion on Sunday and the fact that Buchholz might not be able to work deep into Tuesday's contest. "This has been a tough series on pitching staffs on both sides. We need a multi-inning guy," said Farrell. "Today we're a little bit thin." Webster made his first relief appearance of the season for Pawtucket on Wednesday, tossing a scoreless inning. The team also saw him making two-inning starts in spring training in which he was dominant. "Based on what we saw in spring training, and I know that'€™s spring training, but in one- or two-inning stints, very powerful, a lot more strikes," said Farrell. "He's got that opportunity here now." -- Both Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino are out of Sunday's lineup with previously scheduled off-days. -- The Red Sox expect to have the results of Jacoby Ellsbury's consultation in Denver with Dr. Thomas Clanton of the Steadman Clinic later on Sunday.