Farrell: Buchholz on pitch count Sunday

BOSTON -- Fresh off a thrilling 8-4 win thanks in part to a grand slam by Jarrod Saltalamacchia, it’s a quick turnaround for the Boston Red Sox as they host the New York Yankees in a matinee game today at Fenway Park.

It’s an absolutely beautiful day at the ballpark this morning and besides the music blaring in the Sox’s clubhouse, it’s relatively quiet, which is odd for a Red Sox-Yankees series in September. Boston enters today’s game atop the AL East with an 8 ½ game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays, and 10 ½ over the Yankees.

While Jon Lester starts for the Red Sox today, fellow starter Clay Buchholz gets the nod in the series and season finale Sunday night against New York. It will be his second start since returning from the DL after missing three months with a neck strain. The right-hander worked five scoreless innings last Tuesday against the Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla., and he’s still progressing and preparing for the postseason.

Red Sox manager John Farrell indicated Saturday morning that Buchholz is still limited by a pitch count.

“We’ve got a range. It would be great if he can go out and continue what he did down in Tampa,” Farrell said. “But, as I mentioned yesterday, the stress of the pitches from the start to the end of his night, that’ll have as much bearing as the number of pitches thrown.”

Buchholz reached 74 pitches against the Rays and that number could increase against the Yankees. Despite the hiatus due to injury, Buchholz is 10-0 with a 1.61 ERA this season. Against the Yankees, he’s 2-0 with a 0.75 in two starts this season.

* Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury began physical activities Friday as he attempts to return from a fracture in his right foot. He suffered the injury on Sept. 5 and was given clearance to remove the walking boot Friday to begin his comeback attempt. The hope is the Sox’s leadoff hitter will be able to return in time for the postseason. Farrell said Ellsbury’s first day of physical activities went well. “As anticipated,” he said. “He’s going through more exercises here today which is all part of his rehab plan at the time of the exam. No baseball activities, this is just all physical activities.”

* Red Sox pitcher Felix Doubront is on track to start a game against the Toronto Blue Jays next weekend. The left-hander will work side session Sunday and he’s scheduled to throw a simulated game on Tuesday. Because the Red Sox currently have six healthy starters, Doubront was skipped his last time around as Farrell is balancing rest and trying to figure out how the rotation and bullpen will look for the postseason.

“We felt like this was the need just from the physical standpoint,” Farrell said. “There wasn’t anything glaring inside the last five or six starts that he made, it was just the lack of consistency and to me that looked like fatigue.”

That fatigue Farrell speaks of could be a result of the career-high 161 innings in 29 starts Doubront made last season. Plus, he wasn’t completely ready for spring training and his success rate during the season has fluctuated.

“He went through different phases this year where he started a little bit behind in spring training, caught up, got on a very good run for an extended period of time and then things started to catch up to him again,” Farrell said. “That’s just our response to the waves that he’s gone through and we have to address it accordingly.”