Victorino's return may be delayed

BOSTON -- Following another abbreviated start Tuesday night, the Boston Red Sox may be forced to call up a pitcher to help out a taxed bullpen Wednesday instead of activating outfielder Shane Victorino, manager John Farrell said.

The original plan was to activate Victorino prior to Wednesday's game against the New York Yankees. However, Jon Lester lasted just 4 2/3 innings a day after Clay Buchholz went 2 1/3, and another arm could prove vital, if only for a day.

"This turn through the rotation it's been less than we've shown in the past. It's been less than expected," Farrell said. "For us to play with consistency, we need our starting rotation to lead us through that. Right now we're not getting that."

Chris Capuano threw 30 pitches over 2 1/3 innings Tuesday against the Yankees. Burke Badenhop tossed 3 2/3 and Craig Breslow lasted two innings in relief of Buchholz on Monday. Three others have worked a total of one inning in the last two games. Jake Peavy and John Lackey could not complete six innings in their most recent starts at the end of last week.

Victorino, who is sidelined with a hamstring strain, has played three rehab games with Triple-A Pawtucket. He is 1-for-11 but his presence is needed for a Red Sox club that has had issues all year in getting production from the top of the order and could use an emotional lift.

Lackey could help the cause with a long start against New York on Wednesday, but the last time he faced the Yankees he gave up six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who is sidelined with a calf strain, was getting work done at Fenway Park on Tuesday. He will return to the PawSox to play Wednesday and likely Thursday before possibly being activated from the DL in time for this weekend's series in Toronto.

Middlebrooks was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his first rehab game Monday.

The Red Sox have struggled mightily without Victorino and Middlebrooks. They entered the opener of a three-game series with the Yankees on Tuesday with a .238 average, 13th in the American League. Their OPS of .686 was 12th.