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Red Sox notebook

Buchholz appears ready to return to big club

Clay on his way back?

The Globe's Amalie Benjamin says that, with recent quality performances in Pawtucket, Clay Buchholz seems poised to rejoin the Red Sox' rotation again soon.
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Gordon Edes
Globe Staff / July 2, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Red Sox won't tip their hand until it's time to make a roster move, but there's a good reason Clay Buchholz was pulled from Pawtucket's game Monday night after pitching five scoreless innings while throwing just 50 pitches.

Buchholz appears primed to return to the Sox rotation, possibly as soon as Saturday afternoon against the Yankees in the Bronx.

Buchholz is 4-1 with a 1.63 ERA in eight starts since the Sox sent him to Pawtucket to work on his fastball. In his last four starts, he is 4-0 with a 0.40 ERA, allowing just one earned run in 22 2/3 innings.

Justin Masterson is scheduled to start Saturday and the rookie righthander is worthy of staying in the rotation, going 4-2 with a 3.75 ERA in eight starts while demonstrating considerable poise to go with his above-average stuff. But Masterson also has walked nine batters over 12 innings in his last two starts, and manager Terry Francona talked openly after Monday night's 5-4 loss about how few innings the 23-year-old has thrown professionally.

That would seem to open the door for Buchholz's return.

"The idea was to work on fastball command," Francona said of Buchholz's stint in Pawtucket. "Consistency, and we slightly adjusted his arm angle to create two-seam movement.

"We didn't want to run him down there for just one or two starts. We made him throw his fastball. I don't know if it was a hard count, but we told him, 'Make yourself do this.' "

Buchholz's changeup and curve are so good, he could fall back on those pitches to get hitters out, which is why the Sox told him not to worry about results, Francona said.

But the results have been there as well, which would seem to guarantee Buchholz a seat on the shuttle to Boston, sooner rather than later.

The Sox are also very close to promoting another top pitching prospect, righthander Michael Bowden, from Double A Portland to Pawtucket, with an eye to a possible promotion to the big leagues in August, following the same career path as Jonathan Papelbon in 2005.

Month to remember

J.D. Drew is a cinch to be named the American League's Player of the Month for June after hitting .337 with a major league-leading 12 home runs and 27 RBIs, tied for most in the bigs. Drew also led the majors in slugging at .848, was third in on-base percentage (.462), and tied for first in extra-base hits with 21. Sox researchers said Drew's slugging percentage was the team's highest for the month since 1956, which is as far back as they could check. The previous best was .803 by Ted Williams in 1960. The 21 extra-base hits match Carlton Fisk in 1978 for most by a Sox player since '56.

Six Sox players with at least 30 at-bats hit .300 or better for the month, led by Dustin Pedroia (.356). Mike Lowell hit .331, and his 25 RBIs were just two fewer than Drew. On the flip side, Jacoby Ellsbury had a .265 on-base percentage for the month, while catchers Jason Varitek and Kevin Cash combined to bat .120 (12 for 100). Varitek struck out 22 times, hitting just one home run.

Lefty reliever Javier Lopez had the staff's lowest ERA at 0.75 (1 ER in 12 IP), while Papelbon had eight saves, posted a 1.80 ERA, and averaged 13.50 K's per 9 IP. Tim Wakefield had the lowest ERA among starters (2.31), with Josh Beckett a close second (2.38). Both went 2-1. Jon Lester had the most wins in the rotation, going 3-0 with a 3.03 ERA.

The Sox went 16-11 in June, compared with 13-14 in 2007. Their 39 home runs for the month ranked second in the AL behind the White Sox (48).

Ramírez: 'It's over'

The Sox would not say whether they had subjected Manny Ramírez to disciplinary action for his physical altercation with traveling secretary Jack McCormick in Houston Saturday. "Don't worry, it's over," Ramirez said yesterday when approached in the clubhouse . . . The Sox have arranged for a train to take Francona, his staff, and the Sox' All-Star selections from Boston to New York after their scheduled game July 13 for the All-Star Game at Yankee Stadium two days later. The train will return to Boston after the game, which will give the staff and players a day off at home before they fly to Anaheim July 17 . . . Varitek's scheduled night off coincided with the end of the worst month of his career. "He just needs to stop the bleeding - he works far too hard for this to continue," hitting coach Dave Magadan said. Said Francona: "I think he's frustrated. A little tired. Coming back after being sick hasn't helped." Varitek has been ill on three occasions this season . . . Mike Timlin has retired all nine batters in three rehab appearances in Pawtucket, including three on six pitches Monday night. Timlin may also rejoin the Sox this weekend.

Out of luck

Wakefield has beaten the Rays more than any other opponent, but despite allowing just five hits and two runs (one earned) in seven innings last night, he dropped to 19-4 against the Rays, 9-2 at the Trop, and is winless in his last four starts against Tampa Bay. "These guys aren't like they used to be," Wakefield said. "They're pretty good over there. I think [Matt] Garza is probably one of their [best], if not their best pitcher on that staff, and I think he proved it again tonight." . . . The Sox are 3-14 indoors, with four straight losses - two under the closed roof of Houston's Minute Maid Park and two here . . . The Sox will be looking to avoid their second five-game losing streak of the season tonight when they send Daisuke Matsuzaka against lefty Scott Kazmir. Kazmir's 2.82 ERA against the Sox is the lowest of any pitcher with at least 100 innings since Gaylord Perry, who had a 2.59 ERA against Boston from 1972-83. Kazmir whiffed 49 Sox batters last season - only Jim Bunning (66 in 1960), Nolan Ryan (53 in 1974), and Mike Mussina (52 in 2001) have more K's in one season against the Sox in the last 50 years.

Gordon Edes can be reached at edes@globe.com. Amalie Benjamin of the Globe staff contributed.

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