BALTIMORE -- With the regular season reaching the finish line either Wednesday or Thursday for the Red Sox, there was no longer any time to get Clay Buchholz ready to pitch in a controlled environment.
Boston activated the righty from the 60-day disabled list for Wednesday night's contest against the Orioles.
Buchholz last started for the Red Sox on June 16 and has been recovering from a stress fracture in his back. He will be used only for bullpen stints, because there simply wasn't enough time for him to get stretched out.
"I actually saw my name on the bottom of the lineup card for the first time in three-and-a-half months," said Buchholz. "I still haven't really talked to anybody about what my role is. Obviously, I'm not going to be starting. I'll probably be sent out to the bullpen, and if a situation arises where I can get in the game, we'll go from there."
In an ideal circumstance, the Red Sox would blow the Orioles out on Wednesday and they could give Buchholz a low-leverage situation to see how prepared he might be to help the team out of the bullpen in the postseason.
But things haven't been ideal in September, as the Red Sox's lead in the American League Wild Card standings has vanished and they entered Wednesday in a tie with the Rays.
Buchholz pitched an inning in the Instructional League on Monday.
"We were going to send him [back] down to the Instructional League, and I think we kind of got together and thought, 'Well, the way things have gone, we've proven we can play 14-, 15-inning games,'" said manager Terry Francona. "If we're fortunate enough to have a blowout, we'd love to pitch him. If we ever got into a situation where he could be kind of the wild card, knowing that there's a lot there that's not proven right now, we figured, [we might as well] just keep him here and activate him."
One will never know how differently Boston's season might have gone if Buchholz had stayed healthy and kept his spot in the rotation. The starting rotation has struggled mightily for the Sox in September.
"I don't know if me being out there would have helped anything going on," Buchholz said. "I definitely would have loved being out there, but this unfortunate situation happened. Yeah, it's been tough watching the guys go out, everyone having a common goal in mind to win the ballgame and the ball not rolling our way, but you have to do everything right in a game to win a big league ballgame.
"We're doing one or two things right and one or two things not right at the same time. It's tough to win that way. I'd love to be out there, but it's an unfortunate situation."
At least Buchholz will have a chance to be out there now, even if in a smaller role.
Lavarnway gets another start behind home plate
BALTIMORE -- The September callup became the No. 5 hitter in Game 162 of the regular season.
That is how how much impact Ryan Lavarnway had Tuesday night, when he hit two homers, drove in four runs and made two key throws from behind the plate to help the Red Sox to a possible season-saving 8-7 victory over the Orioles.
Lavarnway batted sixth on Tuesday. Nobody has questioned Lavarnway's bat, but he proved under fire that he could handle the responsibilities behind the plate, and that's why manager Terry Francona threw him back out there Wednesday.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia (left collarbone) and Jason Varitek (sore right knee) are clearly banged up, but the biggest reason why Lavarnway made his second Major League start at catcher on Wednesday is because of what he did the night before.
"Salty could go," said Francona. "I don't think he's close to 100 percent, but, again, we've got a kid who just drove in four runs and caught a pretty good game and feels good about himself, and [Jon] Lester is OK with him catching. I think rather than go the other way where Salty starts and we bring this kid in, I think we're better off doing it this way. If we have to make a move, Salty is always sitting there. This kid played a pretty good game last night."
Youkilis placed on 60-day DL, season over
BALTIMORE -- It's been 13 days since Kevin Youkilis' final game of the regular season, and the frustration in his voice is impossible to miss. Here's a middle-of-the-order hitter who's been sidelined -- and is now out for the season -- while his team has thrown itself into an inexplicable spiral.
Before Wednesday's game, in order to make room on the 40-man roster for Clay Buchholz, Youkilis was placed on the 60-day disabled list, making him ineligible to play for the rest of 2011.
The feeling isn't fun, Youkilis said on Wednesday, and it isn't one he wants to detail. It likely wouldn't be fit to print, anyway.
"I just don't think there's, or should I say, I don't really want to get into it," the third baseman said.
Bothered by bursitis in his left hip and a sports hernia, which requires offseason surgery, Youkilis finished with a .258 average, 17 home runs and 80 RBIs in 120 games. Good numbers, but below what Youkilis could do in a full season. He's missed a combined 102 games in the last two years.
Youkilis certainly fits the description of hard-nosed, and he said he wouldn't want to play unless he was able to perform as hard as he can.
"There's no answer. Sometimes in life you got to accept that," Youkilis said of reporters constantly asking how he is. "I'm not in the lineup, and I got nothing for you. We have nothing going."
With uncertainty in air, Sox ready for anything
BALTIMORE -- A heavy dose of uncertainty was in the air for the Red Sox prior to Wednesday night's potential regular-season finale against the Orioles. If Boston and Tampa Bay both either win or lose on Wednesday, the clubs will face off in a one-game tiebreak at Tropicana Field on Thursday.
It was also possible by the end of Wednesday, the Sox would be boarding a flight to either Detroit or Texas to open a best-of-five American League Division Series, which would start Friday.
And the one scenario nobody wanted to think about was the one in which Boston lost and Tampa Bay won, and the Sox would be going back to Boston to start the offseason.
Manager Terry Francona chuckled when asked if he was going to have a potential Game No. 163 starter fly to Tampa ahead of time.
"[Heck] no, they might pitch tonight," Francona said. "Are you kidding me? No, we'll all go together. We've got a lot of destinations possible tonight. I guess I think we're hoping we all don't go back to Boston. We'll be happy to go anywhere but Boston."
Francona will only announce a starter for Thursday once the Sox know for sure they are playing on Thursday.
The Sox have been in do-or-die situations many times during Francona's time as manager. It's just that it's always been during the postseason, instead of while trying to get there.
How does this compare to the way Francona felt heading into Game 7 of the AL Championship Series' in 2007 and '08?
"I guess it's probably different, because it's a different time and everything," Francona said. "But it seems more important because it's now. Whatever you're going through at the moment seems more important. I'm not sure I know how to answer other than that. It's exciting."
Francona has been trying to get some sleep, but he admits it hasn't been easy.
"The seven pieces of fried chicken I had at 2:30 [a.m. ET] probably didn't help," Francona said. "We're all past the point of whatever. We're just kind of on autopilot, and when it's over, we'll collapse."
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.