PHILADELPHIA -- Red Sox right-hander Clay Buchholz conceded before Wednesday night's game against the Phillies that there's a strong chance his next start won't come until after the All-Star break.
Thanks to a lower back strain, Buchholz hasn't pitched since June 16. He had held out hope a few days ago that he could return on July 4 at Fenway against the Blue Jays, but the righty no longer seems confident he can make it back that soon.
"[I'm] probably set back a little bit," Buchholz said. "I'd rather come back after the All-Star break and be healthy, if that's the case, unless something happens that what we're doing is going to make it feel better in the next three or four days and then I could look at pitching when we get back home. I want to make sure I'm ready for August and September.
"If something happens and I go out and pitch and feel 80 percent, then this happens again and I have to go back on the DL, that's not what I, or I don't think the team wants. That's where we're at right now."
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein agreed that a post All-Star break return was realistic for Buchholz.
- 131 wins
- 121 wins
"We're going to go slow with this one, and as [manager Terry Francona] said, make sure he's 100 percent before he gets back on the mound," Epstein said. "I don't have an answer for you on that one. Things would have to improve pretty quickly here for him to have a chance to do that."
A couple of days ago, Buchholz went out and threw with hope that the back issue would be cleared out. But he could tell it wasn't.
"Just going out and throwing, I wanted it 100 percent gone before I pitch again, and it was still there," said Buchholz. "I definitely didn't think it was going to be there like it was. Yeah, I expected to go out and throw ... I didn't expect it to be completely gone, but it just didn't get better as quick as I thought it was going to, so that's where we're at right now."
Buchholz and the Red Sox both think it would be counterproductive for him to try to grind through the injury at this point. As it is, it has lingered since late last season.
"Hopefully I can get this out of the way and come back at 100 percent and not have to worry about it for the rest of the season, and hopefully it's gone forever and I'll never have to worry about it. That's the outlook I have on it right now," Buchholz said. "I'm sort of disappointed the last couple of days after I threw a couple of days ago. There's nothing I can do about it except keep treating it, and hopefully it gets better."
In the meantime, Buchholz is happy that the Red Sox have pitchers like Tim Wakefield, Andrew Miller and Alfredo Aceves at their disposal.
"We have depth, so that's a good thing. Someone else can take the ball and I can feel like there's not any fall-off," Buchholz said.
Lack of right-field production not unnoticed
PHILADELPHIA -- It's a very small sample size, but Josh Reddick's play has given the Red Sox what they've been hard-pressed to find out of their right fielders: offensive production.
"Right field for us, so far this year, that's certainly a spot where we're not producing as much," general manager Theo Epstein said Wednesday. "Concerned? I wouldn't say concerned as much as, obviously, we've noticed. You'd have to be blind not to notice that we're not getting much out of right field."
Reddick, 24, entered Wednesday night's game against the Phillies hitting .414, with one home run, three doubles and a triple in 12 games. Whether the left-handed hitter can sustain that success full-time, though, isn't an easy answer to extrapolate from those numbers, and the same can be said of how long he'll remain on the big league roster. When Carl Crawford returns from a strained left hamstring, Reddick, who has options, could return to Triple-A Pawtucket.
"We haven't made any decisions yet about that," Epstein said. "We're just trying to get our team as healthy as we can. Josh has played very well. More so than any stats or anything, it's really nice to see his maturation, especially with his approach at the plate. ... Whether he ends up playing a really big part on the team in the coming months or whether he ends up contributing later on, all that remains to be seen."
Crawford's return date isn't set yet, and it's looking like it won't be on Sunday in Houston, the earliest he can be activated from the 15-day disabled list. Regardless, the Sox will be faced with a decision: are they content going forward with J.D. Drew, Mike Cameron and Darnell McDonald manning right? Do they want Reddick in the mix, or someone else from inside or outside the organization? Ryan Kalish, who's recovering from a left shoulder injury he suffered in April, had a setback with what Epstein described as "a neck trap type injury that has been a nuisance for him."
Hitting .232 with a .330 on-base percentage and four home runs, Drew hasn't played since Sunday, when he left a 4-2 loss to the Pirates early because of a foul ball that caught him in the left eye during batting practice. With left-hander Cole Hamels on the mound for the Phillies on Thursday, the left-handed-hitting Drew could be out at least one more day.
For Epstein, the Red Sox can only improve in right field, whether they trade for help or not, and he cited how well the club has done on a whole offensively.
"These things all work themselves out," Epstein said. "It's not like we have to make a decision about, 'This player gets 200 at-bats the rest of the way and this player gets 100 at-bats the rest of the way.' It works itself out naturally over the course of a whole season. I guess I am encouraged by the fact that we can be where we are offensively without much, if anything at all, out of right field. It will get better. There's no way we're going to have the same production the rest of the year that we've had so far. We'll improve internally. And who knows? There's a chance we'll improve at certain spots externally at some point, too."
Speaking generally of the trade market, Epstein said the Red Sox would be active, but he did not address whether payroll could be added and cautioned against expecting a blockbuster.
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.