BOSTON -- Forty-one days since Clay Buchholz last pitched for the Red Sox, neither the pitcher nor the team is any closer to predicting when he will return.
As anticipated, Buchholz was re-examined Friday by Red Sox orthopedist Dr. Peter Asnis, five days after he threw in Oakland and reported continued soreness.
“The exam was basically benign," manager John Farrell said. “We checked in with every player as they returned from the All-Star break. He went out and played catch out to 90 feet today. He felt free and easy, didn’t feel like he did in Oakland. So that’s today’s latest.”
Until his latest setback, the Sox thought Buchholz was only a bullpen session [or two] and simulated game away from going out on a rehab assignment, the last step before the undefeated right-hander (9-0, 1.71 ERA) would rejoin the rotation. Instead, the progression has been halted, and moved back a step or two.
“We would get back to flat ground before getting back to the mound," Farrell said. “The long toss has been sustained and performed without issue. He’s getting back on that now and the angle that’s incorporated starts to create some different stress points. If we were to get to that point where he’s still feeling that, then we’ve got to get things looked at differently.”
Buchholz was administered anti-inflammatory medication in the aftermath of his last setback. The medicine evidently helped. “Today he felt a little bit more free," Farrell said. “Probably combined with the lack of throwing over the last three, four days.”
Perhaps fearing a backlash from fans puzzled by Buchholz’s halting path back toward pitching again, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington stressed that no one is more frustrated than Buchholz, just as Farrell had done the day before.
“I think Clay is frustrated because he wants to be out there pitching and competing," Cherington said. “Obviously he was having a great year. When a guy’s doing that well on the field there’s no way he doesn’t want to get out there. So I know he’s frustrated.
“And I guess secondarily we’re frustrated because we want him out there, too. So we’ve just got to continue to be patient, listen to what he’s saying. He may get another opinion just to try and gather any more information if he can and hopefully put his mind at ease to what’s going on. He knows his body better than anyone else and he’s going to tell us when he’s ready to amp it up and we hope that’s soon. Based on everything we know, we still think that’s soon.
“It hasn’t happened yet. That’s a source of frustration to him and to some degree us.”
The Red Sox are less than two weeks from the July 31 trading deadline, and the possibility exists that the Sox will add another starting pitcher, especially if Buchholz is a no-go.
“We’re 20-14 since his last start," Cherington said. “There’s a lot of good things happening with the team and proving that we can win without anyone. Obviously we’d like to have him out there, we’re a better team with him and we still hope he is out there for the better part of the remainder of the season.
“If for some reason that doesn’t happen, then we’ll just have to adjust. We’ve had guys step up before, we have guys that we think are capable of stepping up and being a good starter at the big-league level. We’ll just have to see how it goes, but we hope to have more clarity on that in the coming days and that will inform us to some degree.”
Buchholz declined to comment when approached before the game.