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Buchholz starts out on journey to a return

By Michael Whitmer
Globe Staff / July 9, 2012
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Clay Buchholz might not have been completely satisfied with what he saw from the mound at McCoy Stadium on Sunday afternoon, but the fact that he took it and got in some needed work without any complications overshadowed any statistics.

Buchholz’s numbers were decent, though. He went 2 scoreless innings in a rehabilitation start for the Pawtucket Red Sox, giving up one hit and two walks against Syracuse.

He struck out three and threw 43 pitches, slightly more than the targeted number.

Buchholz, who was placed on the disabled list June 24 with a stomach illness that landed him in the hospital, was already back in the Red Sox clubhouse before Sunday night’s game with the Yankees. He gave himself a mixed review on his PawSox start.

“Command wasn’t all that good with the fastball, but was able to throw some curveballs for strikes, and a couple other offspeed pitches,” he said. “I wanted to work on fastball command, but it was useless going 2-0 to a hitter, then having to throw something else, try to stick with offspeed stuff and locate that.”

Buchholz hasn’t pitched for the Sox since June 19, when he went six innings against Miami and earned his eighth win of the season. He’s 8-2 with a 5.53 ERA, but he won all four of his starts in June. Getting him back in the rotation would help as the Sox look for a second-half push.

Since Sunday’s Pawtucket game was televised, manager Bobby Valentine could watch one of his disabled-list starters from the comfort of his office.

“He looked pretty much the way we needed him to look for those 40 pitches,” Valentine said. “I’m glad he did it, got his spikes wet in Triple A.”

Valentine didn’t want to announce his rotation when the season resumes Friday in Tampa, but he did say he expects Buchholz to start Saturday’s game. Buchholz, for his part, also said Saturday is what he’s shooting for, but he added that he hadn’t been told exactly when his next start will be.

“I think I’m going to do something here at some point [during] the break, just to see some hitters again,” Buchholz said. “But I’ll be able to build the pitch count maybe to 55 or so, that way whenever I do go out again I’ll be able to go 80, 85 pitches and hopefully get through five or six innings.”

Crawford stays at it

Carl Crawford, who began a minor league rehabilitation stint because of wrist and elbow injuries that have kept from playing with the major league team all season, compounded his medical problems by straining his left groin during Thursday’s game with Double A Portland. He said he’s expecting to play Thursday for Pawtucket, but he also said the ulnar collateral ligament damage to his left throwing elbow eventually will need surgery. The question is when.

“At this point if I can play I think they want me out on the field, so I’m just trying to do everything I can to get back on the field,” Crawford said. “It doesn’t really hurt when I throw. It’s weird, it’s like when I’m warming up it’s a little sore, but when I’m making the throw it doesn’t hurt me as much.”

If and when Crawford does return, he admitted there might be some limitations on unleashing a long throw from the outfield. But that’s not to say that he wouldn’t.

“Probably be best for me to throw to the cutoff man,” Crawford said. “But I can’t say when I get in game action and competitiveness takes over and you want to make certain throws, I can say I’m supposed to throw it to the cutoff man, but sometimes you still might try to make certain throws.”

Raves for rookie

Pedro Ciriaco may have put up some surprising numbers in Saturday night’s game — he went 4 for 5, with two doubles, two runs, four RBIs, and a stolen base — but Valentine saw his newest middle infielder do pretty much the same thing this year during spring training.

“He played extremely well in spring training, he hit like .400, so what’s there not to like when a guy is always on base?” Valentine said. “He has speed, which allows him to advance around the bases rather quickly. His defense was very good in spring training, he played very good defense [Saturday] night. He was able to bunt for a hit in spring training on a number of occasions, and he did that again [Saturday] night. All the things we saw in spring training came into view.”

He did it again Sunday night as well, going 3 for 4 with a walk, a run, and two stolen bases.

Ciriaco, in 26 spring training games, hit .419 with eight RBIs and eight stolen bases. With Dustin Pedroia on the disabled list after injuring his right thumb, Ciriaco should get some playing time, even after the All-Star break.

In 64 games with Pawtucket, he was hitting .301 with 13 doubles, 4 home runs, 21 RBIs, and 14 stolen bases. He got the start again at second base Sunday night, batting second. It didn’t take long for him to make an impact.

Ciriaco singled in the bottom of the first, stole second, then scored when Derek Jeter dropped what would’ve been the third out on a pop off the bat of Cody Ross. Ciriaco hit ninth Saturday.

Honoring Tek

He was behind the plate for 15 seasons, but Jason Varitek will be front and center July 21, with the Sox announcing it as “Thanks, Tek Day.” He’ll be honored during a ceremony scheduled for 6:30 p.m., before the Sox face Toronto in a 7:10 start.

Varitek announced his retirement in March, after spending his entire major league career (1997-2011) with the Sox. An All-Star three times, Varitek never hit better than .296 in a full season, never had more than 25 home runs, never had more than 85 RBIs. But he wore the captain’s “C” because of his presence and preparation, the leader on teams that won the World Series in 2004 and 2007.

Middlebrooks sits

Valentine said he wanted to give third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who has missed the past seven games with a left hamstring injury, more time to recover, even though he might have been good enough to play Sunday night. “He looked really good out there running, says he feels really good,” Valentine said before the game. “Because it’s just one game, and it could be five more days of safeness, I’m leaning towards not having him play.” Valentine said Middlebrooks would return Friday “unless there’s a major setback somewhere between now and then.” . . . Jeter tied Carl Yastrzemski (1,816) for 16th place on baseball’s career runs list when he came home in the the first. He led off with a single, moved to second on a single by Curtis Granderson, then scored on a double by Mark Teixeira. No team in the AL has scored more runs in its home park than the Red Sox at Fenway. Before Sunday, the Sox had scored 253 runs at home.

Michael Whitmer can be reached at mwhitmer@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.

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