While Clay Buchholz made a much-welcomed return to the Red Sox clubhouse before Wednesday's game against Toronto Blue Jays, Bobby Valentine also addressed some news about the progress of John Lackey, who recently began bullpen work after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last November.
Valentine said he believed Lackey, who threw a light bullpen session Tuesday, was on schedule to pitch in a game before the end of the season.
"He's in the weight room. He's working extremely hard, in his conditioning effort, in his rehabilitation effort,'' Valentine said. "I think the projections of him pitching before the year is out, meaning the calendar year, I think he's right on schedule. I don't know about the season. But he'll be pitching somewhere, I think, before the year's over."
Approached in the clubhouse before Wednesday's game, Lackey confirmed he had thrown off the mound three times already, including twice last week.
"It's been like 20 pitches so far, like 80 percent effort kind of deal,'' Lackey said. ''Long toss is the main thing for me right now, just trying to build my arm strength back up. I've got about two bullpens a week for about the next two months, so it's a long process.''
Lackey, though, viewed it as a positive step in his ongoing rehab.
"Yeah, there's been no setbacks, so it's been all positive,'' he said. "My arm feels great so it's definitely moving in the right direction. But it's going to be a while before I get into a game, for sure."
In other news:
• Valentine said Daisuke Matsuzaka's new pre-game preparation program seemed to pay dividends. Although Matsuzaka did not factor in Tuesday night's 5-1 victory over the Blue Jays, he remained winless in four starts this season (0-2) after holding Toronto to just one run on six hits over 5.2 innings.
"I really think they found something there,'' Valentine said. "The first at-bat, those are all quality pitches, and you haven't seen that. The second at-bat were quality pitches. It wasn't this 'Let me feel my way through the first inning' look to the situation.''
• Valentine said he doesn't track All-Star voting these days, and is not entirely familiar with the process (especially now that it has become more fan interactive), but he indicated it wouldn't preclude him from lobbying on behalf of several of his worthy players such as catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, middle reliever Scott Atchison, or closer Alfredo Aceves, if it mattered.
"I wouldn't hesitate,'' Valentine said. "Anybody who's worthy of recognition and it meant that my lobbying would help, I'd do it.''
• Sean Casey was spotted back at Fenway Park. He signed autographs for fans by the Sox dugout before the game.
• Buchholz said after not eating for the first 72 hours of his hospital stay, he was thrilled to have lost only three pounds. After not eating solid food during that time, his appetite came back with a vengeance, saying he wolfed down a hamburger and a pizza a visitor sneaked into his hospital room. "You don't know how good [solid] food is until you've had to eat hospital food for a couple of days."