Buchholz will not return any time soon

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — As the non-waiver trade deadline approaches, how the Red Sox proceed could be influenced by the growing evidence that Clay Buchholz will not be ready to pitch any time soon.

The righthander, out since June 17 with a muscle strain in his lower back, didn’t even respond positively when asked whether he would return this season.

“I mean, I think we’re doing everything we can to get to that point,” he said. “It’s tough on me. Just for that fact that I thought it was going to be 15-day stint [on the disabled list] and it would be over and done with and it hasn’t been that.”

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Buchholz traveled to North Carolina on July 6 to examined by a specialist, Dr. Craig Brigham. He received an injection of anti-inflammatory drugs that day. At the time, he said he hoped to start throwing off a mound within a week.

Ten days later, he’s not close to that. Buchholz played catch at 50-percent effort on Thursday and Friday and today had a large bag of ice wrapped around his back.

“I’m kind of sore,” he said. “But it’s not bad.”

Buchholz is making progress, saying his back feels better now than it did a week ago. But there are no plans for him to take the mound.

“I don’t think there’s really a timeline. Just from the doctors that I’ve seen, it’s basically going to be a feel thing,” he said. “When it feels all right to go, that’s when I’ll do it. It’s something I don’t think I can rush into or try to do more than I can.

“It’s a muscle in my back and until it feels better I don’t think I’ll be able to really get off the mound.”

Buchholz pitched well when he was healthy, going 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA.

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“I want to be pitching. I want to help the team any way I can. Me going out there not 100 percent and not 80 percent, I don’t think it’s going to help the team. If I rush back into it, it’ll be something that’ll be here for the rest of the season and I don’t want that,” he said.

“I’d rather be ready to pitch at 100 percent. I feel like that’s the way I can help this team.”

Said Francona: “I don’t know if that has to be the case. I just think he has to be able to go out and be able to pitch every five days and have it not get in the way. Again, just try and use good judgment. I don’t know that anybody is 100 percent at this time of the year.”

Once Buchholz does return to the mound, it could take as long as three weeks before he is ready to pitch in a major league game. He will need a throwing program to regain arm strength followed by a minor league rehabilitation assignment.

So if he got on the mound in a week, the earliest he would return is mid-August.

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