Buchholz wants shot at No. 3 starter spot

Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz has been making steady progress as he works his way back from a back injury that has kept him sidelined since mid-June, enough so that the pitcher is optimistic he can return to action in October should the team hold onto the AL wild-card spot.

The Red Sox have made it clear they envision Buchholz contributing out of the bullpen, if at all, because there isn’t enough time to ramp him up as a starter. In fact, Terry Francona all but ruled out a rotation spot.

"Buch, he threw an inning and a half [Tuesday]," Francona said Wednesday. "He can't start right now. He knows that. He means next year. He's not ready to start. He can't do that. He's not stretched out enough."

Neverthess, the Sox have a clear need in that No. 3 starter spot, and Buchholz’s clear preference is to return as a starter for the postseason, even if it means in a limited capacity.

“It’s really tough missing a lot of time and then coming back and ramping things back up (as a starter), but I think it’s going to be even tougher to go into uncharted territory (pitching out of the bullpen),” Buchholz told ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes in this week’s State of the Nation. “I’ve only been out of the bullpen a couple of times in my career. Coming back off an injury and going into unfamiliar ground in coming out of the bullpen is just completely different.

"My mindset right now is I’m going to try to ramp back up and be a starter for this team. And if that only allows me to throw 4-5 innings every time I go out until something happens and we get lucky enough to make the World Series and be able to be a full-scale starter then, that’s what I want to do.

“But it’s whatever this team needs and how I can help them win. If they think me coming out of the bullpen is another option for them then that’s what I’ll do."

Buchholz also lobbied for the up-for-grabs third start spot in comments made to ESPNBoston.com’s Jackie MacMullan.

So what do you think? Assuming the Sox make the playoffs, would you rather see Buchholz start (even if he’s on a low pitch count) or be an option out of the bullpen? Vote in the poll above and share your thoughts in the comments section.