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Buchholz feels good in taking first step

By Dan Hickling
Globe Correspondent / July 17, 2010

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The hamstring was fine, the velocity was outstanding, and if Clay Buchholz had his way, he’d be back in the Boston rotation immediately.

Whether he will be will be decided by the Red Sox.

But judging by his rehab outing with the Pawtucket Red Sox last night against the Syracuse Chiefs, there’s every reason to believe he will be.

“Hopefully I’ll be able to get back up there,’’ Buchholz said, “and get in the game at Fenway. To throw in front of all the fans up there. That’s what I’m hoping.’’

Buchholz was making his first appearance since June 26, when a strained left hamstring suffered while running the bases in San Francisco landed him on the disabled list.

Last night, the hamstring responded well and other than a few interesting moments on the mound — a hit batter, a balk, a home run — Buchholz’s stuff showed little rust.

“It felt good,’’ he said. “I didn’t feel that it was going to bother me at all. I bounced off the mound a couple times and it felt fine.’’

Buchholz came out firing in the first inning, in part because the fastball is his signature pitch, and in part because he was “amped up to pitch.’’

“It’s been three weeks,’’ he said, “and as an athlete, when you don’t play for three weeks, all you want to do is get on the field and do what you love to do.’’

By the numbers, Buchholz went 3 2/3 innings, allowing four hits (two to Chiefs second baseman Seth Bynum) and two runs. He hit 93 miles per hour on the Alliance Bank Stadium radar gun with his first pitch, a strike to Boomer Whiting, and he turned it up from there.

Most of his 17 pitches (10 strikes) in that first inning were fastballs, half a dozen of them hit 95, and one topped out at 96.

Another that was clocked at 94 was swatted over the right-field wall by Bynum.

“My two-seamer was moving a little too much,’’ Buchholz said. “They were both sinkers that were supposed to start off the plate and come back to the corner. But I started them on the plate and he ran into them. You sort of expect pitches in the heart of the plate to get hit.’’

A bit of comedy was injected when, with Whiting on first, Buchholz started to throw to the bag to keep Whiting close. At the last second, he saw that first baseman Lars Anderson was playing back, and the ball just slipped out of his hand for a balk. Buchholz had a smile you could see from the press box.

“I forgot that he told me he wasn’t going to be covering the bag,’’ said Buchholz. “I didn’t want to let go of the ball, but it slipped out of my hand.’’

Buchholz acknowledged feeling a little disappointed that his offspeed command wasn’t as sharp as he was used to, especially as his stint wore on.

“It was a little mediocre,’’ he said. “I threw a couple good pitches and I tried to go back to them. But the release point wasn’t really there. I think that will come with getting back in the game, and throwing bullpens at a regular pace.

“Other than that, everything felt good.’’

Playing behind Buchholz was another rehabbing Red Sox, Jed Lowrie, who has missed the entire season after coming down with mononucleosis during spring training.

After playing a handful of games with the short-season Single A Lowell Spinners, Lowrie joined the PawSox Thursday.

After lighting up Syracuse pitching last night — single, double, homer — Lowrie appears ready to return to the big league club.

“This is something that affected my whole body,’’ Lowrie said. “For a while my priority was just getting healthy. Baseball was on the back burner. I feel healthy and I feel good.’’

The Red Sox rehab parade will make another stop here today when pitcher Josh Beckett, out since May with a bad back, will make his second tuneup start for the PawSox.

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