The Red Sox’ starting pitching rotation has been held together with duct tape for nearly a month. Moving Tim Wakefield from the bullpen to starter has had mixed results, and spot starts from rookie Felix Doubront and Scott Atchison have helped plug the holes.
Finally, the bandages are almost ready to be removed.
Young stud Clay Buchholz, who hasn’t taken the mound since June 26 due to a left hamstring injury, will start Wednesday in Oakland. Buchholz pitched 3 2/3 innings in a rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday, allowing two runs on four hits.
"I expected to be a little bit rusty," Buchholz told MLB.com. "I basically went in wanting velocity and everything to be there, and not notice that I was favoring anything, so that's what I went out there to do. Everything felt good."
That was enough for manager Terry Francona to bring back the pitcher, who was on a roll before the injury. Buchholz won seven of his last eight starts before pulling up lame while running the bases in San Francisco.
The righty’s return exchanges an inexperienced Doubront for an All-Star. Buchholz brings a 10-4 record and 2.45 ERA back to a rotation desperately in need of some stability.
More stability returned in the form of Manny Delcarmen, who picked up the win Saturday night after pitching a hitless 11th inning. The reliever had been out since July 1 with a right forearm strain.
"He's a guy that, when he's going good, has the ability to go multiple innings, get lefties, righties,” Francona told MLB.com. “That's been missed a little bit the last couple of weeks. Hopefully, it will be very valuable getting him back. The way he can pitch is important, but it should really help."
The last missing piece of the rotation puzzle is Josh Beckett, who made his second and potentially final rehab start for the PawSox on Saturday. He threw 80 pitches — 50 for strikes — over four-plus innings, allowing three runs on five hits while striking out three.
After the outing, Beckett said he wasn’t as sharp as he would’ve hoped.
There is no word yet on if the Red Sox will bring him back, but there is a chance Beckett will return to pitch in the Seattle series, which begins on Thursday. The ace’s return would move Wakefield (3-8, 5.65 ERA) back to bullpen duty.
In other injury news, infielder Mike Lowell is set to make a rehab start for Pawtucket on Thursday. First, Lowell will receive a cortisone shot from hip specialist Dr. Brian Kelly on Monday, his first since spring training. The shots are meant to “clean out” Lowell’s surgically repaired hip.
"I'm actually looking forward to maybe playing three days in a row. I don't think I've done that in forever," Lowell said. "I don't know if it's three in a row, but getting consistent at-bats. I don't mind that at all. After that, we'll see. I think after four days, we're pretty much starting over. So nine [at-bats] or 19 or 29 doesn't really make a big difference to me."
Lowell has been the topic of trade talks with the Texas Rangers, who reportedly have been monitoring his progress and may make an offer.
Outfielders Jeremy Hermida (fractured ribs) and Jacoby Ellsbury (broken ribs) are also making progress. Hermida, out since June 11, continues to play with Double-A Portland. Ellsbury, meanwhile, is still recovering on his own in Fort Myers, Fla., and has not started making rehab starts.
“We have not progressed yet to on-field BP, but he is throwing, running and doing everything he is supposed to,” Francona told MLB.com.
Infielder Jed Lowrie finally is almost back from mononucleosis. He has been on the 60-day DL since March 31. Playing with Lowell and Pawtucket, Lowrie has hit .435 with eight RBIs and has played three different positions: shortstop, third base and DH. He is also scheduled to play second base on Sunday for Pawtucket.
Victor Martinez is one step closer to returning from a fractured thumb after taking batting practice from the left side on Friday. Fellow catcher Jason Varitek and second baseman Dustin Pedroia both continue to rehab broken foots and will not be back for a few more weeks.
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