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.''

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

Boston pitchers strike out 14, but Red Sox still fall to Rays, 7-3

The appearance of Tampa Bay Rays lefty Ryan Yarbrough almost got the Boston Red Sox back in their spring training exhibition game. The Sox managed to score all three of their runs against the 25-year-old in their 7-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Florida on Sunday.

But the Rays, who scored runs in five different innings, managed to widen their lead in the eighth inning by beating up on Sox lefty Luis Isla, a 24-year-old who spent last season with Portland and Pawtucket. In the eighth, Rays' Joe McCarthy homered and Luke Maile managed an RBI single, which cappped off the scoring in the contest. Sox starter Hector Velazquez allowed three hits and an earned run in his two innnings. The 28-year-old, who spent 2016 in the Mexican League, still managed to amass four strikeouts.

"I was a little nervous at the start, being in the United States for the first time and playing for a big league club for the first time," Velazquez told RedSox.com through an interpreter. "But once I got the first out, all the nerves went away, and I was able to bear down."

Despite allowing two homers, Boston pitchers combined for 14 strikeouts.

With the exception of the Sox' inning against Yarbrough, Boston's veterans and prospects struggled mighltily against the Rays pitching staff. Chris Archer started for Tampa, and set the tone in the first two innings, where he threw two strikeouts, one walk and allowed one hit and no runs. Andrew Benintendi (0-for-3), Sam Travis (0-for-2) and Bryce Brentz (0-for-3) went hitless on the day. Travis, however, reached base on balls.

"I felt good. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish," Archer said, via the Red Sox' team website. "Just out there having fun, it was really fun to be out there in the spectrum with the umpire, the fans, the batter. It was fun."

Marco Hernandez's triple got the Sox' eighth-inning off to a strong start, and singles from Matt Dominguez, Deven Marrero, Rusney Castillo and Cole Sturgeon followed. The Sox' eighth inning scoring ended after Castillo got thrown out by left fielder McCarthy at third. Six Red Sox finished with one-hit outings, including Brock Holt and Blake Swihart.

The Sox will next host the St. Louis Cardinals in Fort Myers on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET.