FORT MYERS, Fla. — Clay Buchholz drew a substantial crowd to watch him throw a simulated game at 10 a.m. on Field 2 Saturday.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and most of his staff were there. Manager John Farrell watched from behind the plate while pitching coach Juan Nieves stood behind the mound.
Teammates Daniel Bard, Ryan Dempster, and John Lackey were there, too, along with 10 members of the media and several other coaches.
Buchholz strained his right hamstring Feb. 12 and the Red Sox have been bringing him back slowly. The simulated game was a significant test and Buchholz passed, throwing 37 pitches without any pain.
“Felt really good,” Buchholz said. “The one thing that we need to sit and work on is [pitching] out of the stretch. Didn’t really get to go in depth with it. There’s definitely some kinks in the delivery. Other than that, felt strong.”
Buchholz needs to show he can run full speed covering first base. Once he does that, he will join the rotation. The plan is for him to throw in the bullpen Monday and then start a game Tuesday or Wednesday.
“We’ll fit that into how it starts to plan out for the start of the regular season,” Farrell said.
Facing teammates Juan Carlos Linares and Mike Carp, Buchholz threw 21 pitches from a windup in the first inning and 16 from the stretch in the second.
Carp made good contact in the first inning but Buchholz was otherwise sharp. His fastball command was less precise in the second inning. But when he missed, he missed low.
Buchholz warmed up as he normally would and sat on the bench between innings.
“If it were midseason and I needed to pitch, then I could pitch. We’re treating this like we have two extra weeks,” Buchholz said. “There’s no rush for me to get back. I’m still going to have six, maybe seven, outings in the spring before we head north.
“I don’t think there’s going to be anything holding me back.”
Bogaerts takes off
Xander Bogaerts left camp Saturday night to catch a flight to New York. He will go from there to Taiwan and join the Dutch team for the World Baseball Classic.
The Netherlands starts play March 2. If the team advances out of pool play, the next round would be in Tokyo starting March 7.
Farrell thinks it will be a positive for the 20-year-old.
“Any time a young player can get in front of 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 people, that is a first that they can experience before they come to the big leagues,” Farrell said. “Depending on how far they go in their respective bracket, to go up against possibly pitching he hasn’t seen at the minor league level yet, all those are going to be invaluable firsts.”
Bogaerts, who is from Aruba, said there are several players on the team he grew up playing against.
“It’s a long flight,” he said. “But I think it will be fun.”
The Red Sox will face R.A. Dickey Monday when a split-squad team travels to Dunedin for a game against the Blue Jays. The Sox will start their knuckleballer, Steven Wright. Tim Wakefield will be on hand to evaluate Wright before reporting to Sox camp as a guest instructor . . . Lefthander Franklin Morales threw an inning (and 23 pitches) during Buchholz’s simulated game. He is scheduled to pitch against the Orioles in Sarasota Wednesday . . . The Sox ran what infield instructor Brian Butterfield called his “Larry Bird Drill” before the game. It’s a rundown drill that features Butterfield making over-the-shoulder and blind throws to the fielders to keep them on their toes. Bird lives about an hour south of JetBlue Park in Naples but, alas, was not in attendance.