Clay Buchholz tosses simulated game

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz took another positive step in his rehab from a back injury, making it possible he could return to action in the final days of the regular season and maybe for the playoffs if Boston hangs on and earns a postseason berth.

Buchholz tossed a simulated game with hitters in the cage Tuesday afternoon at Fenway Park, and it went well. He's scheduled to throw another one either Thursday or Friday. If he continues to progress, it's possible he could pitch in some capacity the final series of the season in Baltimore early next week.

"I don't know if I'll be able to build up to throw five innings, but that's the team's call," Buchholz said. "If they want me to come back and get some innings, we've got to see how this postseason run is going to be and go from there."

During the session, Red Sox manager Terry Francona, general manager Theo Epstein and head trainer Mike Reinold were all looking on.

"He actually looked pretty good," Francona said. "We now obviously wait to see how he bounces back and see where and when to go with the next step."

Buchholz tossed 25 pitches during his warmup in the bullpen and then followed that with a 32-pitch simulated game.

"Everything went well," Buchholz said. "Location wasn't what it should be, which is expected, but the ball is coming out of my hand and there's no problem with the back."

During the sim game, fellow Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett was looking on, along with second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

The Red Sox were clinging to a two-game lead in the AL wild-card race entering play Tuesday and could use some pitching help.

"Nobody wants to sit out for three months. It's been tough sitting back and watching the guys go out there," Buchholz said. "Even when we're playing good I want to be out there. It's tough right now, but I'm trying to get to that point where I can come back and help this team win."

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.