Clay Buchholz eyes Sept. 10 return

PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz believes he's on track to make his return to the rotation Sept. 10 against Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Buchholz pitched 3 1/3 innings Friday night for Triple-A Pawtucket at McCoy Stadium in his second of three scheduled minor league rehab starts. Facing the Syracuse Chiefs, he threw 53 pitches (34 strikes), allowing one earned run on seven hits with no walks and two strikeouts.

"I felt really good," he said. "Tonight I was much more impressed with the velocity that I was able to sustain over the period I was out there, and getting over that hump of not really worrying about anything when I'm trying to get a fastball down and away to a righty and have something on it."

His third and final rehab appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, likely a playoff start for Pawtucket. The timing isn't set in stone, as his wife, Lindsay, is pregnant and close to giving birth to the couple's second child. When he does pitch next, he'll be able to ramp up his pitch count to between 75 and 80 pitches.

"I was able to throw all my pitches with the same effort level, same arm angles, and that's basically the final hump I had to get over, as far as not having a second thought in the back of my head," he said. "Now it's just getting that release point down on each of my pitches, and obviously not having a long first inning."

In the first inning Friday, Buchholz threw 23 pitches (13 strikes) and allowed one earned run on three hits. Chiefs leadoff hitter Eury Perez produced an eight-pitch at-bat before he singled, stole second and reached third on a throwing error by PawSox catcher Ryan Lavarnway. Syracuse's Jeff Kobernus provided the RBI single, and Danny Espinosa followed with a single. Buchholz was able to get a 6-4-3 double play, then a popup to third base to end the first inning.

In the top of the second, the right-hander tossed 12 pitches (eight strikes) and allowed one hit, while striking out one.

In the top of the third, Buchholz threw 12 pitches (nine strikes) and allowed two hits with one strikeout. He returned for the fourth inning and quickly recorded the first out on one pitch.

Buchholz was lifted after he allowed a double to the Chiefs' Chris Rahl, but he said he felt his progression throughout the outing improved.

"Yeah, really good," he said. "Obviously, still up in the zone, but for the most part, when I threw pitches and missed, I missed off the plate instead of down the middle. The last pitch I threw was supposed to be a front-door cutter, but I pulled it middle, and the kid got good wood on it."

As Buchholz walked off the mound, he received a nice ovation from the sellout crowd and tipped his cap.

"This is the hardest I've tried to throw throughout all this stuff, so it's a good thing for me," he said.

He also was pleased with his breaking pitches and felt he was hitting his spots, which he wasn't able to do in his first rehab outing for the Class A Lowell Spinners. He admitted his delivery was a bit more deliberate, as he's trying to find his rhythm.

"Out of the stretch, for the most part, that's my only uncomfortable spot right now," he said. "I don't feel really balanced in the stretch, and that's given the fact that most of my rehab appearances have been out of the stretch. It's something I'm trying to think of to get a comfort level from doing that since I am having to do it so much right now. It was all about being out there and trying to figure out a way to be comfortable. In the last couple of innings, I felt good."

He began his rehab assignment with Class A Lowell on Sunday and allowed three runs (one earned) on one hit with three walks and one strikeout in 2/3 of an inning. He tossed 38 pitches in that outing.