Buchholz has stress fracture, likely out for year

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Buchholz has stress fracture, likely out for year

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
CHICAGO -- With the benefit of hindsight, it's easy to now understand why the Red Sox spent so much time and energy on finding a starting pitcher at the trade deadline.

Clay Buchholz, who's been out six weeks, is suffering from a stress fracture in his lower back, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

It's unlikely that Buchholz will pitch again this season, though a return in the postseason has not entirely been ruled out yet.

Buchholz, whose last start was June 16, is scheduled to see noted back specialist Dr. Thomas Watkins in Los Angeles Monday. But Watkins will likely only confirm what has already been diagnosed.

Buchholz threw off the mound last Monday and told reporters afterward that he felt the session was a step in the right direction, adding that he felt about 80 percent recovered.

"I think it's going to feel better," Buchholz said at the time. "There was still a little soreness coming off after I threw. I sat down for about 10 minutes, did a couple stretches and it felt better. This is, I think, the biggest step in the right direction so far in this process."

However, the very next day, Buchholz experienced some additional soreness and underwent an MRI, which revealed the stress fracture. Previously, the official diagnosis had been that Buchholz was battling stress inflammation of the back.

Such injuries are rare for pitchers. They are more common in position players. New York Mets third baseman David Wright was diagnosed with a stress fracture in mid-May and only recently returned, having missed about two months.

No surgery is required for a stress fracture, which is usually healed with rest and treatment.

It's possible Buchholz could be physically ready sometime in September to resume pitching. By then, however, the seasons for every minor-league affiliate would be complete and there would be no venue for which Buchholz could rehab.

Without the benefit of live game conditions to build arm strength, it would be difficult for Buchholz to return late in the season. It's conceivable, the source said, that Buchholz could pitch in relief in the postseason, but that would be asking a great deal for someone who will not have faced major league hitters since mid-June.

General manager Theo Epstein, in a conference call with reporters Sunday to discuss the team's acquisition of Erik Bedard, said, "Clearly, we have some concern for Clay. It's been almost a couple of months now, which is longer than we expected it to be. We're still awaiting some more feedback and another opinion. I think we have a feel for what may be going on, but Clay is seeing another expert to get his opinion, then we're all going to put our heads together this week.

"I'll refrain from answering in too much detail until we have a chance to talk to Clay and we all have a chance to talk things through. Clearly any time a pitcher of his caliber isn't on the mound for a while and throws a side as he did on Monday but then can't necessarily back it up with another side and getting out there on a rehab assignment, there's some concern."

The Sox may have held off on making any announcement on Buchholz's condition out of fear that the news would cost them leverage in trade talks with opposing teams leading up to Sunday's deadline.

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam.

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

New photo surfaces of noticeably thinner Pablo Sandoval

When it comes to Pablo Sandoval and his weight, a picture is worth a thousand words.

During spring training it wasn’t a good thing. Sandoval made headlines when a number of photos revealed significant weight gain for the Red Sox third baseman.

But the last two images have been more positive for Sandoval.

In October, a noticeably thinner Sandoval was photographed at an FC Barcelona game.

On Monday, Dan Roche of WBZ tweeted a more recent picture of the new-look Sandoval.

Sandoval, 30, is entering the third season of a five-year, $95 million contract. In his lone full season in Boston, 2015, Sandoval hit .245/.292/.366 with 10 homers and 47 RBI.

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

Red Sox taking stricter luxury tax penalties into consideration this offseason

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The newly agreed upon Major League Baseball collective bargaining agreement features higher taxes and additional penalties for exceeding the competitive balance threshold -- and don't think the Red Sox haven't noticed.

The Red Sox went over the threshold in both 2015 and 2016, and should they do so again in 2017, they would face their highest tax rate yet at 50 percent. Additionally, there are provisions that could cost a team in such a situation to forfeit draft picks as well as a reduced pool of money to sign its picks.

None of which means that the Red Sox won't definitively stay under the $195 million threshold for the upcoming season. At the same time, however, it remains a consideration, acknowledged Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

"You would always like to be under the CBT (competitive balance tax) if you could,'' offered Dombrowski. "And the reason why is that are penalties attached for going over, so nobody likes to (pay) penalties.

"However, the Red Sox, if you follow history, have been up-and-down, right around that number. We were over it last year and the year before that. So I would prefer (to be under in 2017). However, a little bit more driving force in that regard is that there are stricter penalties now attached to going over. And some of them involve, for the first time, differences in draft choices and sacrificing money to sign players and that type of thing. So there's a little bit more drive (to stay under).

"But I can't tell you where we're going to end up. Eventually, does it factor (in)? Yeah. But until we really get into the winter time and see where we are, will I make an unequivocal (statement about staying under the CBT)? Maybe we won't. But there are penalties that I would rather not be in position to incur.''

Dombrowski stressed that he's not under a "mandate'' from ownership to stay under the CBT.

"But I am under an awareness of the penalties,'' he said. "Last year, I would have preferred to be under, too, but it just worked for us to be above it, because we thought that would be the best way to win a championship at the time.''

He added: "I think we're going to have a good club either way.''

But it's clear that the CBT is part of the reason the Red Sox aren't being more aggressive toward some premium free agents such as first baseman/DH Edwin Encarnacion, who is said to be looking for at least a four-year deal at an annual average value of more than $20 million.

Currently, the Red Sox have nearly $150 million in guaranteed contracts for 2017, plus a handful of arbitration-eligible players, some of whom (Drew Pomeranz, Jackie Bradley Jr.) will see significant raises.

Together, with insurance premiums and others costs tallied, the Sox stand at nearly $180 million, just $15 million under the 2017 tax.

"I've said all along I've wanted to stay away from long-term contracts for hitters at this point,'' Dombrowski said of the current free agent class, "(especially) with some of the guys we have in our organization coming. I just haven't felt that that's a wise thing to do.''

The Sox saw two potential DHs come off the board over the weekend, with Carlos Beltran signing a one-year $16 million deal with Houston and Matt Holliday getting $13 million from the Yankees. Either could have filled the vacancy left by David Ortiz's retirement, but Dombrowski would also be taking on another another eight-figure salary, pushing the Sox well past the CBT.

"I figured we would wait to see what ends up taking place later on,'' said Dombrowski, "and see who's out there.''