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Red Sox Notebook

No timetable on Buchholz

Starter strikes pessimistic tone

Adrian Gonzalez made a good point to second after scoring along with Kevin Youkilis on David Ortiz’s double in the third. Adrian Gonzalez made a good point to second after scoring along with Kevin Youkilis on David Ortiz’s double in the third. (Brian Blanco/Associated Press)
By Peter Abraham
Globe Staff / July 17, 2011

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Clay Buchholz is not going to be pitching for the Red Sox any time soon. That much is evident.

The righthander, out since June 16 with a muscle strain in his lower back, didn’t respond positively when asked yesterday whether he would return this season.

“I mean, I think we’re doing everything we can to get to that point,’’ he said. “It’s tough on me. Just for that fact that I thought it was going to be a 15-day stint [on the disabled list] and it would be over and done with, and it hasn’t been that.’’

Buchholz traveled to North Carolina July 6 to be examined by a specialist, Dr. Craig Brigham, and received an anti-inflammatory injection. At the time, he said he hoped to start throwing off a mound within a week.

Eleven days later, he’s not close to that. Buchholz played catch at 50 percent effort Thursday and Friday, and yesterday had a large bag of ice wrapped around his back.

“I’m kind of sore,’’ he said. “But it’s not bad.’’

Buchholz is making progress, saying his back feels better now than it did a week ago. But there are no plans for him to take the mound.

“I don’t think there’s really a timeline. Just from the doctors that I’ve seen, it’s basically going to be a feel thing,’’ he said. “When it feels all right to go, that’s when I’ll do it. It’s something I don’t think I can rush into or try to do more than I can.

“It’s a muscle in my back and until it feels better I don’t think I’ll be able to really get off the mound.’’

Buchholz pitched well when healthy, going 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA.

“I want to be pitching. I want to help the team any way I can,’’ he said. “Me going out there not 100 percent and not 80 percent, I don’t think it’s going to help the team. If I rush back into it, it’ll be something that’ll be here for the rest of the season, and I don’t want that. I’d rather be ready to pitch at 100 percent. I feel like that’s the way I can help this team.’’

Said manager Terry Francona, “I don’t know if that has to be the case. I just think he has to be able to go out and be able to pitch every five days and have it not get in the way. Again, just try and use good judgment. I don’t know that anybody is 100 percent at this time of the year.’’

Once Buchholz does return to the mound, it could take as long as three weeks before he is ready to pitch in a major league game. He will need a throwing program to regain arm strength followed by a minor league rehabilitation assignment.

Jenks back on DL For the third time this season, Bobby Jenks has been placed on the DL.

Jenks has pain on the left side of the middle part of his back, the same injury that put him on the DL June 8. The righthander traveled to Boston and will be examined today. Jenks was disabled retroactive to July 8.

The Sox called up lefthander Randy Williams from Triple A Pawtucket.

Jenks has appeared in just 19 games and has a 6.32 earned run average since being signed to a two-year, $12 million contract in December.

The Sox envisioned Jenks as a reliever who would lock down the seventh or eighth inning. But he has rarely pitched, and pitched poorly when he has.

“That’s an important part of our bullpen, that complement to [Daniel] Bard,’’ Francona said. “That other arm is a huge arm. He’s not just a thrower. He can manipulate the ball; he can spin it. He’s got a good feel for the game. We just haven’t had him out there healthy and we miss that.’’

Lefty goes right to it Williams was tested right away, entering yesterday’s game with two outs and two on in the sixth inning. His first pitch resulted in Casey Kotchman grounding to second. Williams then got the first two outs in the seventh.

“To be able to get them out as tired and as bad as I felt, I was happy to get through it like I did,’’ said Williams, who learned late Friday night he was getting called up and only got two hours of sleep. “I was surprised under the circumstances.’’

Williams, 35, has been with seven organizations since being drafted by the Cubs in 1997. The Sox signed him to a minor league contract over the winter.

Williams had a 1.29 ERA in 19 appearances for Pawtucket, striking out 26 in 21 innings. Lefthanded hitters were hitting .136 against him.

The Sox have rotated through lefty specialists this season, trying Dennys Reyes in spring training with Hideki Okajima, Rich Hill, and Tommy Hottovy following. Only Hill, who tore an elbow ligament in June and is out for the season, was effective.

Now Williams gets his chance. Hitting 95 miles per hour on the radar gun with his fastball opened Francona’s eyes.

“He’s been dominating lefthanded hitters. Velocity has been tremendous,’’ Francona said. “It gives us that second lefty where we can match up.’’

Williams said his fastball improved when he added weight a few years ago.

“I’m throwing harder than I used to. It’s as good as it’s ever been,’’ he said. “I’ve tried to be in as good a shape as I can and use my frustration to do good things.’’

Bash brothers Dustin Pedroia and Marco Scutaro homered in consecutive games, the game before the All-Star break, and Friday’s game. The Sox hadn’t had a second baseman and shortstop do that since Bobby Doerr and Joe Cronin on April 15-16, 1941. Pedroia made it three straight with a solo shot in the seventh yesterday . . . To make room for Williams on the 40-man roster, Hottovy was designated for assignment.

Peter Abraham can be reached at pabraham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @peteabe.

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