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.''