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Buchholz: Rehab taking longer than expected

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz was walking around the visitors’ clubhouse Saturday morning at Tropicana Field with a massive heating pad on his back as he continues to rehab a lower-back strain that has kept him on the disabled list since June 17.

The right-hander is 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 14 starts this season and it’s obvious he’s disappointed with his absence from the club’s starting rotation.

“Inch by inch,” Buchholz said. “It’s taking longer than I thought it would. This sucks. Obviously I want to be pitching and I want to help the team in any way I can. By going out there not 100 percent, or 80 percent, isn’t going to help the team.”

There’s still no timeline on a possible return.

“There is no schedule. It’s all how he feels. [Friday] he felt better than he thought he was going to after the layoff and the plane ride and everything,” said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. “It’s all dependent on how he feels because if there’s a schedule that has a chance to mess him up.”

“I really can’t rush into it and try to do more than I can,” Buchholz said. “Until it feels better I don’t think I can get off the mound.”

He received a cortisone injection on July 5 and he admits that it’s helped, but he can still feel the discomfort in the muscle.

After playing catch on Thursday and Friday, Buchholz will take today off from throwing and will solely work on core strengthening exercises.

“It’s been tough on me because I thought it was only going to be a 15-day stint,” Buchholz said. “I thought it was going to be over and done with, but it hasn’t been that.”

Buchholz did say he was encouraged by the way he felt after playing catch on Friday, but was feeling the discomfort again Saturday morning.

Francona said Buchholz does not need to be 100 percent before he returns.

“I don’t know if that has to be the case,” said the manager. “He has to be able to go out and pitch every five days and have it not get in the way. We’re just trying to use good judgment. I don’t know if anybody is 100 percent this time of the year.

“We need him and we would love to have him in the short term, but we really want him in the long term. We’re trying to use good judgment.”