The Red Sox have surprised much of baseball with their run towards the best record in the American League in early August.
But there's still one element missing from the 2013 Red Sox: Clay Buchholz.
Buchholz is 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA this season, but hasn't pitched since June and it appears uncertain when his return will be.
Regardless of when Buchholz's return will actually be, Lou Merloni thinks the Sox will need him late in the season. In fact, Merloni said on The Baseball Show that a healthy Buchholz makes the Sox World Series contenders.
"You do need him back in September if you're going to take this team seriously, I think," Merloni said of Buchholz. "This is a playoff team. This is a World Series contender if Clay Buchholz is pitching at the level he did earlier in the year. That's the difference."
Buchholz has received plenty of criticism for the amount of time that he's missed, but Steve Buckley's not ready to criticize him until because he doesn't know the true extent of his injury.
"It gets dicey because we don't know the extent of his injury," Buckley said. "If he can pitch now he should be pitching, obviously that's a statement of the obvious. But in light of the fact that I don't know what ails him I can't say he's dogging it...
"I have to confess it doesn't look good when he's out there jumping up and down in these postgame pig piles. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but if you're a frustrated fan it's not smart."