By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com Red Sox Insider Follow @sean_mcadam
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. Clay Buchholz, who hasn't appeared in a game since the Red Sox were last at Tropicana Field in mid-June, is unsure when he'll be activated and return to the mound.
Buchholz, sidelined by lower back spasms and soreness, played long toss Friday afternoon, but felt some soreness as a result when he came to the ballpark Saturday morning.
"I threw (Friday) and felt better than I expected to," said Buchholz. "I came in a little sore today just from the fact I hadn't really done much in the last three weeks. I'll take today off from throwing, just do some core strengthening and back exercises and then get after it again tomorrow."
The Sox are getting Josh Beckett (hyper-extended knee) back Sunday night and project that Jon Lester (lat muscle) will return when the Sox get back to Fenway next week.
But for now, it's impossible to determine when Buchholz might come back.
"I don't think there's really a timeline," he said. "From the doctors that I've seen, it's basically just going to be a feel thing, when it feels alright to take the mound, that's when I'll do it. It's something that I don't think I can really rush into or try to do more than I can on that particular day just for the fact that it's a muscle in my back. Until it feels better, I don't think I'll be able to really get off the mound."
"There is no schedule," confirmed Terry Francona. "It's all how he feels. Friday he felt better than he thought he was going to after the layoff and the plane ride and everything. It's all dependent on how he feels because if there's a schedule that has a chance to mess him up.
"He has to be able to go out and pitch every five days and have it not get in the way. We're just trying to use good judgment. I don't know if anybody is 100 percent this time of the year."
With 2 12 months to go and the playoff race intensifying, it's difficult for Buchholz to be sidelined.
"Yeah, it sucks," he said. "Obviously I want to be pitching, I want to help the team in any way I can. Me going out there not 100 percent, or not 80 percent, I don't think is going to help the team any. I think if I rush back into it, it will be something that will be here for the rest of the season and I don't want that.
"I'd rather be ready to pitch at 100 percent and I feel like that's the way that I can help this team win...It's been tough for me just for the fact that I thought it was going to be a 15-day stint and be over and done with and it hasn't been that. That's all I've got right now."
The week before the All-Star break, Buchholz visited a back specialist who confirmed that there wasn't nothing structurally wrong with the back. He also received a cortisone shot at the time.
"Yeah, it's helped," Buchholz said of the shot. "But at the same time, I can still feel something back there. My whole outlook on it was to let it be 100 percent before I came back and it's just taking a little bit longer than I wanted it to."
When Buchholz played long toss, he didn't feel any discomfort. Then again, the issue has never been about throwing; it's more the discomfort he feels in his back when he throws off the mound.
"I don't think I'm at that point yet (to resume throwing off a mound)," said Buchholz, "but (Friday) was a step in the right direction for sure."
"We need him and we would love to have him in the short term," concluded Francona, "but we really want him in the long term. We're trying to use good judgment."