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Monday, July 29, 2013
Pregame notes: Buchholz progress?

By Tony Lee, Special to

BOSTON -- Among the scenes Monday afternoon at Fenway Park was injured Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz throwing long toss with increased intensity, another step on his meandering road to recovery.

Manager John Farrell indicated that Buchholz’s ability to get near 100 percent intensity and incorporate a crow hop is a sign that the right-hander is closer to getting back on the mound for a bullpen session. Buchholz was seen taking that little skip and letting loose, so it was a step in the right direction. Then again, that’s been said before since Buchholz was shelved in early June.

Buchholz made about 40-50 throws.

In other pregame news:

* Struggling Jose Iglesias was given a day off at third base in favor of Brandon Snyder, who is making his eighth start at third. Iglesias has just four hits, all singles, in his last 40 at-bats. His average has fallen from its high-water mark of .451 in the middle of June to .330, and the slick-fielding Iglesias has not drawn a walk since July 6.

Farrell is well aware of Iglesias’ struggles. He said that the infielder’s slump is not as debilitating to the team as it might seem, and that Monday is nothing more than a day off.

“He’s been attacked early and often in the strike zone,” Farrell said. “Whether he’s fallen behind in the count or expanded the zone on occasion ... I can’t say that he’s chased wildly by any means. Some of the balls that he had the benefit of falling in before haven’t been of late. I don’t think he’s striking out at an abnormal rate. Putting the ball in play. Some of those aren’t finding holes.”

So does the fact that he is putting the ball in play (Iglesias has fanned 12 times in 80 at-bats in July) mean that those hits will start to come again?

“That, or in certain situations we may look to put a runner in motion as we did in Baltimore a couple of times with him,” Farrell added. “He still has a well-above average ability to make a productive out, and that’s not to talk backwards about him by any means, it’s just to say that if we’re in a situation where we have to move a runner he can do it either through the small game or the hit and run. But you continue to ride it out and he’s been going every day. This is just a down day for him.”

Adding intrigue to the situation is the fact that top positional prospect Xander Bogaerts is playing at third base for Pawtucket on Monday night, just his fifth game at the position in four seasons in the system. Will Middlebrooks, one of the other figures at what has amounted to a very uncertain position for the Red Sox, is serving as the designated hitter for the PawSox.

Farrell gave every indication that Bogaerts is firmly in the mix, but no move is imminent.

“I think Xander’s doing everything he can to tell us when he’s ready to come to the big leagues,” he said. “Whether that’s this week or next month, that’s still in the debate or in the conversation. He’s an exciting young player and I think we’re all looking forward to the day that he begins his career, not knowing when that’s going to be. There’s still some things that are a work in progress for him defensively, and anytime you go up against more veteran pitching, that’s going to be another adjustment on his part. He’s a pretty exciting player.”

Bogaerts insists he feels most comfortable at shortstop. Where he plays, if and when he is called up, remains in doubt. But just like the Sox did with Iglesias at Pawtucket, mixing in starts at third base while Middlebrooks struggled in Boston, they want to have everyone ready to fill in at the hot corner.

“The more reps we can get there to gain some comfort probably keeps that internal conversation alive,” Farrell said of Bogaerts playing third at the major-league level. “Whether or not that’s the position he comes to here, we’ll see.”

Bogaerts is hitting .273 with eight homers and an OPS of .853 in 40 games since moving up to Triple-A.

Farrell also expressed his desire to give Snyder a chance against Rays lefty David Price on Monday and hopefully “get a little more production out of the bottom of the order.” Boston’s 7-9 hitters are batting .137 (16-for-117) over the last 12 games.

* Jarrod Saltalamacchia is out of the lineup after playing a day game after a night game Sunday, as expected. Ryan Lavarnway, who has a double and a single in seven at-bats against Rays lefty David Price, is back in the lineup.

Lavarnway is hitting just .225 with no homers in 13 games as he adjusts to an extended part-time role, something of which he has little history. That irregularity may have something to do with the lack of production, Farrell said, but Lavarnway’s defensive game has blossomed.

“He’s done a lot of work to clean up the defensive side of the game,” Farrell said. “His transfers have been quicker, his throws have been accurate. His rate of caught stealing has gone up. Does a good job of calling the game and when he’s been back there it’s been a game that’s very much under control from a pitching and receiving standpoint.”

Lavarnway has thrown out 33 percent (5-of-15) base stealers after nailing just 12.5 percent (4-of-32) in limited action with the Red Sox in 2011 and 2012. Boston pitchers have produced a 3.70 ERA in 87 2/3 innings throwing to Lavarnway. That number was 5.75 in 219 innings in 2012.