Pregame notes: Buchholz, Crawford close to returning; Bard struggles

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Pregame notes: Buchholz, Crawford close to returning; Bard struggles

BOSTON -- Clay Buchholz threw another bullpen session Friday afternoon, and the expectation is that he'll rejoin the Red Sox rotation sometime in the first two series after the All-Star break.

Buchholz has been sidelined after being diagnosed with esophagitis.

"He'll throw another bullpen soon,'' said manager Bobby Valentine. "He's feeling great. After the break, he'll either slot into the first turn through the rotation or early in the second rotation, depending on whether we and he feel whether he should get on the mound and pitch to some hitters or not.''

Translation: if Buchholz goes on a brief rehab stint, he'll pitch when the team gets home for its first homestand. If he's deemed ready to pitch right away, he'll likely pitch one of the three weekend games at Tampa Bay on July 13-15.

"His bullpen sessions have been very good,'' said Valentine. "His weight is all back, his strength is back.''

Carl Crawford was at Fenway Friday, getting checked out by the medical and training staff. After spending much of the last week with Double A Portland, he'll spend Saturday and Sunday with Pawtucket.

There's been speculation that Crawford could rejoin the team in Tampa Bay after the break, but he isn't ready to commit to that.

"I don't think you'll know until you get there,'' he said. "so we're just taking it day-by-day right now. That's how we're approaching it and we'll see. I'd like to get back as soon as possible. But we'll have to wait and see.''

Crawford said the elbow is "not 100 percent healthy. But I'm able to hit, so I said pretty much whenever I'm able to start hitting the ball and swinging that bat, then I'll play even if the elbow is still some issue.''

As for throwing, Crawford joked that he wouldn't be "hosing anybody at home or anything like that. But I think it's strong enough to where I could hit the cut-off man and get to the ball quick enough that I can stop the guys from advancing.''

Scott Podsednik was at Fenway, too, being examined. He's been on a rehab assignment with Pawtucket after being placed on the DL June 18 because of a groin strain.

It's likely that Podsednik will be added as the 26th man for Saturday's day-night doubleheader. Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, teams are allowed to add an extra player for the day.

"He just got examined and he's healthy and ready to go,'' said Valentine. "We're trying to figure out all those options for the 26th man and of course, he'd be one of them.''

Daniel Bard experienced another erratic outing Thursday night pitching for Pawtucket, throwing two wild pitches, hitting two hitters and giving up two hits.

In the previous outing, Bard, believing he had found a key to correcting his mechanics, had a 1-2-3 inning and the Sox were hopeful that he had turned the corner.

But Thursday night was as bad as ever. While at Pawtucket, Bard has made 12 appearances and compiled an 8.78 ERA while walking 10 and hitting 6 others in 13 13 innings.

"I have confidence that Daniel's going to be just fine,'' said Valentine. "I guess he had a control problem once (early in his career at Single A) and he got over it and seemed to get to a very, very high level of performance. And I think he'll do it again.''

Will Middlebrooks was out of the lineup for the fourth straight game after straining his left hamstring last Sunday in Seattle.

"He ran at about 70 percent capacity on Thursday,'' said Valentine. "He felt just okay. He ran Friday and felt closer to 100 percent, so that's where he is. He's close.''

Asked if he thought Middlebrooks would be back in the lineup this weekend, Valentine said: "There's a chance, a chance he could pinch-hit, for sure, maybe even Friday night.''

Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

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Brian Johnson: 'Awesome feeling' after five-hitter vs. Mariners

BOSTON - Brian Johnson had quite a turnaround in his second time on Fenway Park's mound.

Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The 26-year-old left-hander became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

"The last time I walked off the mound here was 2012 and I made two pitches," Johnson said. "Today I went nine innings. Today was pretty cool."

Johnson left Triple-A for a little over a month last season to get treatment for an anxiety issue.

"Obviously with some stuff that I've been gone through in my career, it's an awesome feeling" he said.

But despite the stellar outing, Johnson was optioned back to Triple-A after the game.

"That's the reality of the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "We had a chance to congratulate him and yet option him back to Pawtucket, with David Price coming here Monday."

Brought up from the minors for the start, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. His only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

"Their guy threw the ball over the plate. He threw strikes," Mariners manager Scott Servais said. "I won't take anything away from what he did, but we're not swinging the bat very well."

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

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Johnson beats Mariners 6-0 for Red Sox' 6th straight win

BOSTON - Brian Johnson pitched a five-hitter in his first big league appearance at Fenway Park, and the Boston Red Sox stretched their winning streak to a season-high six games with a 6-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

Brought up from Triple-A Pawtucket, Johnson (2-0) gave up five singles, struck out eight and walked none. The 26-year-old left-hander's only previous big league starts were at Houston on July 21, 2015, and at Toronto on April 18 this year.

Johnson became the first Red Sox pitcher to throw a shutout in his first Fenway start since Pedro Martinez on April 11, 1998. In Johnson's first start in Fenway - his fourth as a professional - he sustained a season-ending facial fracture when he hit by a line drive while pitching for Class A Lowell in 2012.

Johnson was helped by a semi-leaping catch by center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the wall in the sixth, Bradley's diving grab of Nelson Cruz's sinking liner in the ninth and Bradley's game-ending running catch of Kyle Seager's drive.

Xander Bogaerts' RBI single triggered a three-run first inning and Bradley hit a two-run homer in the sixth

Shut out for the second straight day, Seattle has lost seven of eight.

Rob Whalen (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits over 5 1/3 innings in his Mariners' debut, his first big league start since Aug. 23 for Atlanta. He is Seattle's 12th starting pitcher, the most in the major leagues.

Andrew Benintendi and Sandy Leon also had RBI singles in the first, when the Red Sox had two batters hit by pitches, two walks and two runners thrown out on the bases - Dustin Pedroia at third for the first out and Hanley Ramirez at the plate for the last.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Mariners: RHPs Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, both on the DL with right shoulder inflammation, threw bullpen sessions. Hernandez said he "felt really good."... LHP James Paxton (strained forearm) is set to come off the DL and pitch at home Wednesday.

Red Sox: Pedroia was back at second base after getting Friday off to rest his sore left knee and not play on a wet field. He was hit by a pitch on the right forearm his first time up and went 1 for 3. ... 3B Pablo Sandoval, on the DL with a sprained right knee, was expected to play nine innings Saturday night in a rehab assignment with Triple-A Pawtucket. Manager John Farrell didn't rule out that he could be activated next week.

UP NEXT

Mariners: RHP Christian Bergman (1-2, 6.30 ERA) gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over four innings in a 10-1 loss Tuesday at Washington.

Red Sox: RHP Rick Porcello (3-4, 4.35) has gone at least six innings in eight of nine starts.