ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Red Sox had tentative plans to start Clay Buchholz against the Orioles on Sunday. But now it appears he will not pitch until Tuesday at the earliest.
Buchholz left his start on Saturday in the seventh inning because of a stiff neck. He played catch today and still felt some discomfort.
"Nothing bad, but it's still kind of stiff after not doing anything for a few days," he said. "We'll see how it goes."
Manager John Farrell said Jon Lester would start on Sunday if Buchholz does not show "marked improvement" in the next 24 hours.
"The fact that he's still feeling some stiffness, we've got to factor that in," Farrell said. "This would only be two additional days. ... We'll go when he is ready."
Farrell said that decision would have to come early in the afternoon on Thursday so Lester could start preparing for the Orioles.
Buchholz has made only one start since June 2 because of assorted minor injuries. He had one start delayed because of a sore AC joint in the front of his right shoulder. Then came the neck issue. Buchholz believes they are related.
Buchholz is 9-0 with a 1.72 earned run average and the Sox are 11-1 in his 12 starts. They don't take any risks with the pitcher who has become their ace.
"If there's any question with Clay, Jon will start on Sunday. That's where we are right now," Farrell said. "We're not going to take any chances."
• Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves met with Lester this afternoon to discuss his recent woes. The lefthander is 0-3 with a 6.90 ERA in his last five starts. Over 30 innings, Lester has allowed 38 hits — six of them home runs — with 18 walks.
"Get back to some basics and re-establishing what his strengths are," Farrell said. "That is his four-seam fastball to his glove side. That's not to say that every pitch is in that location. But that establishes release point in the event that he needs to go that area to get back into a count. It has an effect on all the pitches that he throws."
Lester couldn't get through the fifth inning on Tuesday against the Rays, giving up seven runs on eight hits and seven walks. Farrell said it was evident that he was searching to get some consistency.
"Typically you'd like to go into a game and establish your fastball and work off of that," Farrell said. "We've got to get back to some basics."
Farrell said it's not atypical for pitchers to go through down periods.
"This is not any different from some things he's run into before or what any other pitcher will go through," Farrell said. "But it's work that needs to be addressed."
Farrell believes Lester has to take what he does in his side work between starts into games with better consistency.
• Farrell called Bruins coach Claude Julien to wish him well in the Stanley Cup.