THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Buchholz has stress fracture

No update on Watkins visit

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By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / August 2, 2011

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A Red Sox source confirmed yesterday that pitcher Clay Buchholz is suffering from a stress fracture in his back.

Buchholz yesterday visited Dr. Robert Watkins, a Los Angeles-based specialist, to seek a fourth opinion on what had been thought to be a lower back strain.

The righthander Sunday was moved to the 60-day disabled list; he had been placed on the 15-day DL June 19, retroactive to June 17.

Sox manager Terry Francona confirmed before last night’s game against the Indians that Buchholz met with Watkins. But he shed little light on the outcome of the examination, saying he and general manager Theo Epstein would talk with Buchholz and team doctor Thomas Gill and head trainer Mike Reinold before making any determination on Buchholz’s status.

Buchholz is the second starter to be lost so far this season. Daisuke Matsuzaka went on the DL May 17 with a right elbow strain and underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery.

“You can’t replace Clay, obviously, but I think this has been a team where all year long we’ve had to pick each other up,’’ catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said. “With injuries in the outfield we’ve picked each other up. On the mound we’ve picked each other up. So that’s what we’re looking to do.

“Theo and those guys know what they’re doing. They’ve done a great job putting together the team we’ve got so far, so we’re just looking for guys to stay healthy and just play good ball.’’

Buchholz’s situation caused the Sox to acquire Seattle lefthander Erik Bedard at the trade deadline Sunday.

To make room for Bedard, who will make his Fenway debut Thursday night vs. the Indians, the Sox transferred Buchholz to the longer-term DL.

Last Monday, Buchholz threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session and reported afterward being “75-80 percent’’ healthy. “I think this is the biggest step in the right direction so far in the process,’’ Buchholz said at the time. “It was what I wanted to go out there and do.’’

Francona, who presided over the bullpen session with pitching coach Curt Young and Reinold, was encouraged by what he saw as well.

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

But Buchholz did not follow up with another session and instead was referred to Watkins.

“I’ve had back issues but never to the extent that Buch is having,’’ said reliever Daniel Bard. “I think sometimes the adrenaline’s flowing, you’ve got a lot of blood pumping to that area and it can kind of mask some of the pain and discomfort. But it’s when you sleep on it and everything tightens up, how do you feel after that?

“From talking to him, that seems to be where he’s having the trouble. That’s kind of what it was, what led to him getting the second and third opinion: soreness the next day.’’

Francona declined to say whether he was optimistic about Buchholz returning this season.

“The medical people are going to put their heads together and talk to Clay, Theo, and probably myself,’’ Francona said. “Then I think Tom [Gill] will write a statement, an explanation, and then I’ll certainly be happy to talk about it.’’

Nick Cafardo of the Globe Staff contributed to this report; Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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