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Buchholz throws off the mound

Tosses 30 pitches in bullpen session

David Ortiz (right) gives a hearty Red Sox welcome to a pair of Patriots - wide receiver Julian Edelman (left) and linebacker Rob Ninkovich - in the dugout before last night’s game. David Ortiz (right) gives a hearty Red Sox welcome to a pair of Patriots - wide receiver Julian Edelman (left) and linebacker Rob Ninkovich - in the dugout before last night’s game. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / July 26, 2011

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Clay Buchholz, on the disabled list since June 17 with a lower back strain, threw a bullpen session before last night’s rain-delayed Red Sox game against the Royals at Fenway Park.

It was a positive step for the righthander after he had somewhat of a setback when the session, which he had intended to have Friday, was pushed back.

“I think this is the biggest step in the right direction so far in this process,’’ Buchholz said after throwing 30 pitches. “I don’t feel like there was any hitch in the delivery. It was what I wanted to go out there and do.

“I’ve pitched with pain before. If it’s not overbearing, that’s what I’m going to do.’’

Manager Terry Francona monitored the session along with pitching coach Curt Young and head trainer Mike Reinold.

“He did really well,’’ Francona said. “He said it was like night and day from his last side session, which was good news.’’

Buchholz, who estimated he felt 75-80 percent healthy, went through his complete repertoire of pitches, but focused mainly on his fastball.

“There’s still a little soreness coming off after I threw,’’ he said. “I sat down for about 10 minutes, did a couple of stretches, and it felt better.’’

Said Francona, “The ball came out of his hand great. If you watched him throw, you would never believe that he’s missed time. It just exploded out of his hand.

“It’ll be interesting how he bounces back [today],’’ Francona said. “But if all goes well, we’ll follow this up with a full side session [tomorrow].’’

That seemed to conflict with Buchholz’s schedule, however, after he indicated he would take today off, conduct a light toss tomorrow, and maybe throw another bullpen session Thursday.

Buchholz did not have a timetable on his possible return.

“I want to do it as quick as possible,’’ he said. “I think it’s going to take a couple of [rehab] starts to get back in it, facing live hitters. I want to be ready to go. If it’s in the middle of August, that’s good. If it’s September, that’s good, too.

“I want to try and come back and help this team get to the postseason and work our way from there.’’

Lester solid in return Jon Lester returned from the DL to start last night (the game was delayed 2 hours 21 minutes), and it originally had been thought that room on the roster would be made for the lefthander with right fielder J.D. Drew going on the DL with what Francona said was “a left shoulder impingement.’’

“We didn’t want to DL him right away because we didn’t have a move we wanted to make and he could have pinch run, something like that,’’ Francona said before the game. “Hopefully the couple of weeks down will really do him some good and get him some strength back in that shoulder.

“Maybe we have a better chance of seeing the J.D. that we’re hoping for.’’

However, it turned out that the team decided to option Kyle Weiland to Pawtucket. The club made the official announcement just as Lester took the mound.

But Drew is expected to go on the DL today, with the team set to call up infielder/outfielder Drew Sutton from Pawtucket.

Sutton, 28, had hit .298 in 26 games with the Sox this season, including nine starts.

Francona said Drew underwent an MRI last Saturday and that his injury was not the result of any specific play.

“I don’t know how long it’s been bothering him,’’ Francona said. “He’s been getting treatment on it for a while, a couple of weeks.’’

Drew has struggled this season, hitting .219 with 4 homers and 21 RBIs.

He was benched Friday night and supplanted in the lineup by the red-hot Josh Reddick, who entered last night’s game hitting .358 with four homers, 19 RBIs, and a team-leading .621 slugging percentage.

Asked how Drew took the news of his demotion, Francona said at the time, “He was fine. He said he understood. I think he does. I think J.D. cares more than people realize. I also told him that we’d never give up on him, either. We’ve also talked about what J.D. has in there and if it comes out, we would love that, too.’’

Youkilis is hobbled Kevin Youkilis departed after the seventh inning with right hamstring tightness. He tweaked the hamstring on a groundout to short in the sixth. Although he came up limping, Youkilis played the top of the seventh before being replaced by Yamaico Navarro in the top of the eighth . . . Daniel Bard extended his streak of consecutive scoreless innings to 25 in 24 games after tossing a shutout eighth vs. the Royals.

Globe correspondent Nicole Auerbach contributed to this report; Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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