With the clock ticking toward the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the best addition the Red Sox can make to their rotation may well be sitting in their own clubhouse.
"That's how I want to view it," Clay Buchholz told the Boston Herald.
Buchholz hasn't pitched for the past month because of a strained muscle in his lower back. At first, he doubted the injury would require more than a two-week rest. But since he went on the disabled list June 19, his back has responded only slightly to treatment. Buchholz went for a second opinion, then a third, and a few days before the All-Star break, back specialist Craig Brigham prescribed a cortisone injection to aid the healing. Buchholz resumed playing catch last weekend, and over the past four days, he has played long-toss from 120 feet.
The next step, slated for Friday at Fenway Park, is the biggest. Buchholz will throw a bullpen session, an exercise that will force him to put strain on his back while going through his mechanics on the downward slope of a mound. It has been this activity, and the continued discomfort stemming from it, that has most often resulted in the long pauses in his recovery.
In the Red Sox's best-case scenario, Buchholz will emerge from Friday's session pain-free. There likely will be other bullpen sessions in the coming days, then a minor league rehab assignment that likely would include at least two starts. If all goes well, it's conceivable Buchholz could reclaim his spot in the rotation by mid-August.
As general manager Theo Epstein said Thursday morning on WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan Show," it would be nearly impossible for the Red Sox to find a more impactful addition to their pitching staff than a healthy Buchholz.
"I feel like if I'm healthy and able to run out there every five days, I feel like I can do some things as far getting on some good runs and helping this team win," Buchholz said. "If I can come in and be in there every five days, that's my job. That's what they're paying me to do, and that's what I want to do."
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