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Pregame notes: Napoli out again

BOSTON -- For the second straight game, Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli is not in the lineup due to flu-like symptoms, and Mike Carp will take his place.

But manager John Farrell said in his pregame press conference Thursday afternoon that Napoli could be available.

“He’s improved today,” Farrell said. “He’s dealing with some dehydration, he’s still dealing with some overall achiness and nausea, [but] we’re hopeful at some point later this afternoon there would be some availability in today’s game.”

If anything, Napoli would likely pinch-hit if necessary.

Meanwhile, Carp has been serviceable in his absence, being aggressive in his at-bats. In Wednesday night’s 6-4 loss to the Blue Jays, Carp went 2-for-3 with two doubles, an RBI and a walk. In 51 at-bats this season, Carp has .275/.351/.373 totals.

“We’re fortunate that we do have some depth that we can go to a quality bat,” Farrell said. “And as [Carp] is starting to show, the more consistent at-bats of late are starting to pay off, with some timing and some hard-hit balls like he did last night.”

Here’s how the lineup looks:

1. Dustin Pedroia, 2B

2. Shane Victorino, RF

3. David Ortiz, DH

4. Jonny Gomes, LF

5. A.J. Pierzynski, C

6. Xander Bogaerts, SS

7. Mike Carp, 1B

8. Brock Holt, 3B

9. Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

Jon Lester, LHP

Playing the odds: With David Ross as his frequent batterymate, Jon Lester has pitched some gems of late, including May 10’s 15-strikeout performance against Oakland. Today’s move to put Pierzysnki at the dish, instead of Ross, was influenced by the need for more offense, said Farrell.

Pierzynski is all too familiar with Jays starter Mark Buehrle and his rapid-fire progression from their seven seasons as teammates with the White Sox from 2005 to 2011 (Pierzynski, however, did not catch Buehrle’s perfect game in 2009). All-time against Buehrle, Pierzynski is 9-for-22 with 3 RBIs and 4 strikeouts, with an OPS of .826. Carp, by comparison, has never faced Buehrle.

“He’s had quite a bit of success against Buehrle,” Farrell said of Pierzynski. “In a stretch where we’re trying to generate as much offense as possible, that’s where we are in the lineup today.”

Inconsistency plaguing Buchholz: Clay Buchholz was a popular talking point in Farrell’s afternoon press conference. The veteran starter, who allowed nine hits and four earned runs in Boston's 6-4 loss to Toronto on Wednesday night, is clearly struggling. In his last three starts, Buchholz has allowed a total of 29 hits, 13 earned runs and three homers, with just 11 strikeouts. In nine starts this season, he has a 6.32 ERA -- nearly double his career average.

Farrell said he and pitching coach Juan Nieves “spent quite a bit [at the park] last night” watching film, then again this morning, before meeting with Buchholz.

The most glaring issue? Problems repeating his delivery.

“When he’s making mistakes, he’s been up in the strike zone or he’s been in the middle of the plate,” Farrell said. “And last night, more than we’ve seen this season, he pitched behind in the count a lot. And that’s again from... a lack of repeating his delivery as needed.”

Farrell also admitted that Buchholz is “not in the most confident state” at the moment.

Another issue has been his pitch velocity, often opting for harder throws when in jams instead of mixing it up.

“Right now, when he’s pressed to make a pitch, he has gone to a pitch that’s been hard in velocity, whether it’s fastball or cutter,” Farrell said. “We’ve got to get back to the point of being able to change speeds more consistently -- and for strikes, not just throwing them for the sake of throwing.”