WEEI.com, citing a "source familiar with the matter", reported earlier this morning that the Red Sox are very concerned that Clay Buchholz's sore lower back is the result of a more serious injury than a muscle strain.
Terry Francona did not directly confirm that. But his words clearly indicate that Buchholz is is dealing with an injury that could could knock him out for the rest of the season.
"Oh, boy. The best way I think I can answer that is that it’s not been the simplest muscle strain. That’s pretty obvious," Francona said. "I meant what I said [Wednesday]. I don’t know if I meant what I said [Tuesday]."
Buchholz threw off a mound on Monday and looked good according to all observers. But instead of repeating that step on Wednesday, he was shut down. The Sox have said Buchholz will see another specialist later this week but have provided no details beyond that.
“It’s not been the simplest muscle strain I’ve ever seen. We are serious. We want to have everything answered before we turn him loose. Because if we turn him loose, we don’t want to turn back," Francona said. "At the same time, we want to take care of him. I still feel that and I think our medical people do, too."
Is Francona concerned that Buchholz will not pitch again this season?
“Not right now,” he said. “I think we want to get him looked at. What I said is what I said.”
Buchholz has not pitched since June 16. In recent weeks, he has said repeatedly that he does not want to pitch in a game until he is 100-percent pain free.
With the trade deadline approaching, the Red Sox may be compelled to obtain a starter given the state of their rotation. Buchholz is in limbo, Andrew Miller has so far been unreliable against American League teams and Tim Wakefield has a 7.06 ERA in his last five starts.
The Red Sox will closely monitor Seattle lefthander Erik Bedard when he makes his start on Friday. The Mariners have been scouting Red Sox prospects in Portland and Pawtucket in preparation for a possible trade.
The team also has been in contact with the Dodgers regarding Hiroki Kuroda. The big prize would be Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez, but that would likely require a significant price in terms of prospects.
Other starters reportedly available include Rich Harden, Jeremy Guthrie and Aaron Harang.