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Buchholz takes the next step

Simulated inning seems to go well

Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold got more of the wall than the ball, and Dustin Pedroia got a double. Baltimore’s Nolan Reimold got more of the wall than the ball, and Dustin Pedroia got a double. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)
By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / September 21, 2011

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Will the Red Sox regret not getting Clay Buchholz ready sooner?

The performance of the starting rotation will answer that question, if and when they make the playoffs. The Sox went with a very cautious rehab plan for Buchholz, who had a small stress fracture in his back that healed some time ago.

One Sox official thought the plan was much too conservative, given what they have after Josh Beckett and Jon Lester.

Buchholz threw from 120 feet several times before he even threw off a mound Saturday. Yesterday, he threw a one-inning simulated game of 32 pitches, facing Lars Anderson, Jose Iglesias, Ryan Lavarnway, and Joey Gathright from the Fenway mound.

It drew quite a crowd.

Buchholz threw free and easy, and he may pitch another simulated game tomorrow or Friday. After that, the hope is to get him into the regular-season finale against Baltimore and then have him available out of the bullpen. That’s better than nothing, but could it have been even better?

Manager Terry Francona set up the pitching rotation for the week like this: Beckett, Lester, Tim Wakefield, and either Erik Bedard or John Lackey. Francona denied that the embattled Lackey is being pushed back as far as possible, but that’s the effect.

The Sox won’t be able to insert Buchholz into a playoff rotation right away, but the deeper they go, the better the chances that Buchholz could be stretched out.

“He threw 32 pitches and actually looked pretty good,’’ Francona said. “Now, obviously, we’ll see how he bounces back. And see when and where we go with the next step.’’

Buchholz said his location “wasn’t what it should be, but the ball was coming out of my hand good. No pain, everything is fine. Trying not to compensate for anything. Finishing my delivery like I normally would.’’

Asked about possibly starting, he said, “I don’t know if I’d be able to build up to throw five innings; that’s the team’s call. If they want me to come back and get some innings in the postseason, we’ll go from there.’’

Buchholz said it feels like spring training.

“I’ve been throwing pretty much the whole time, playing catch,’’ he said. “Not pitching, but throwing. My arm doesn’t feel near as not ready as it would be in spring training.’’

As for his velocity yesterday, Buchholz said, “It’s hard throwing 100 percent against your own hitters. It’s not like a real game. It wasn’t 100 percent, but I threw every pitch that I throw.

“If I had to put a number on it, I’d say I threw 90 percent.’’

Curt response When Francona was asked about Curt Schilling’s prediction on a radio show that the Sox would not make the playoffs, at first he played dumb. “Which radio and which pitcher?’’ Francona asked. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.’’ Later, when he said he heard of Schilling’s comments, he said, “You know . . . I don’t give a [expletive].’’ . . . Francona also did not want to comment on David Ortiz’s remark Monday that Alfredo Aceves should be a starter. The manager said he didn’t want to get into commenting on other people’s opinions . . . Francona confirmed that Kevin Youkilis was sore after some workouts. “He can’t do any baseball activity, and he’ll continue to do the core work,’’ said the manager. Youkilis could play but would have to tolerate the pain of a hernia. “We’ll check on him later this week,’’ said Francona. “If he could go on the field and be productive, he would do it.’’ . . . Francona said reliever Dan Wheeler is throwing again and may soon be available.

He’s got their number Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak vs. Baltimore to 32 games, dating to April 17, 2009. He’s now hitting .434 against them in 143 at-bats. It’s the longest streak by a Sox player against any team in club history . . . The Sox surpassed the 3 million mark in attendance for the fourth time . . . Orioles manager Buck Showalter was ejected in the top of the fifth inning . . . Daniel Bard took the loss, his ninth. It’s the most by a Sox reliever since Derek Lowe lost 10 in 2001 . . . The Sox are now 5-15 in September . . . Adrian Gonzalez was in the lineup even with a sore calf. He had a double and a home run in his first two at-bats and finished 3 for 5 with three RBIs. Carl Crawford, who missed Monday’s doubleheader with a stiff neck, returned to the lineup and started in left field. He had a single in four at-bats . . . Mark Reynolds was back in the Baltimore lineup, playing first base, after being hit in the head with an Ervin Santana pitch Saturday. Reynolds singled twice and drove in a pair . . . According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time a team had an inside-the-park home run and a grand slam in the same inning (as the Sox did Monday night) was Aug. 16, 1950, when the Giants did it against the Dodgers at the Polo Grounds. Hank Thompson had the inside-the-park homer and Don Mueller had the slam.

Bob Ryan of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Nick Cafardo can be reached at cafardo@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo.

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