SEATTLE -- The easy decision has been made.
Beyond that, the Red Sox still have some figuring out to do.
Right-hander Brandon Workman, whose six-game suspension ended Tuesday, threw a simulated game here and is penciled in to start Friday night.
Left-hander Felix Doubront, who made one start last Friday since coming off the disabled list with a strained shoulder, will go to the bullpen for the remainder of the Seattle series, and stay there for the Yankees series this weekend in New York.
Manager John Farrell said the plan is to slot Doubront for a start in the Cubs series next week at Fenway Park.
The more difficult call concerns how the Red Sox open a roster spot for Buchholz's return. Farrell would not reveal the team's intentions but left the definite impression that he is looking for a way to keep both rookies Workman and Rubby De La Rosa on the big-league club. They've earned it, he said.
"This is still a bottom-line game and we're conscious of that,'' Farrell said. "The easy move would be, well a guy's got options and you send the depth and send the guy back to Triple-A. Well, it just so happens he has performed as good as anyone on our staff, and everyone sees that. And that's Rubby's and Brandon's case.''
Workman, who was recalled from Pawtucket on May 25 when Mike Napoli went on the DL, has a 3.21 ERA in five starts, which included a one-hit performance over 6 2/3 innings against the Orioles on June 10.
De La Rosa, recalled after Buchholz went on the DL, has been even better, posting a 2.51 ERA in five starts. He has gone seven innings in each of his last two starts, allowing a total of just one run on five hits in games against the Twins and Athletics.
"We've got to take a look at every possibility, every combination to get to where we're at, [in terms of] the normal allotment of pitchers and position players," Farrell said.
Ideally, that would be 13 position players and 12 pitchers. The Red Sox have 13 pitchers and have to make room for Buchholz. If they intend to keep De La Rosa with the major league team, someone has to go, either in a trade or, more likely, as a player designated for assignment.
If bottom-line considerations take precedence, as Farrell suggested, veteran left-hander Chris Capuano could be designated for assignment.
Capuano has allowed 14 hits and 10 earned runs in just four innings this month for a 22.50 ERA. The Red Sox owe him slightly more than $1 million on the remainder of his one-year, $2.25 million contract. A starter his entire career before coming to the Red Sox, all in the National League, Capuano probably would not remain unemployed for long.
Farrell said the Red Sox also have discussed the possibility of a six-man rotation, but even then, something would have to give, as they have seven potential starters: Jon Lester, John Lackey, Jake Peavy, Buchholz, Workman, Doubront and De La Rosa.
For his part, Buchholz said he is eager to return to the mound, confident that he has identified and corrected the mechanical flaws that contributed to a 7.02 ERA in the season's first two months. Buchholz landed on the DL ostensibly because of a hyperextended left knee, but the Red Sox have used the downtime to push the reset button, allow him to work on his deliver and rebuild his confidence.
Is Wednesday the start of another chapter in his up-and-down saga?
"This season for sure,'' Buchholz said. "There's nothing I can do about the numbers other than pitch well and give my team a chance to win. That's my mindset, to help out and do as much as I can.''
Farrell sounded very upbeat that Buchholz will do just that.
"This guy is going to not only add depth, but give us a boost,'' the manager said. "He's in a good place. He feels good about where he's at, delivery-wise. Physically, he's ready to go. A healthy productive Clay Buchholz is never a bad thing.''