Clay Buchholz available out of bullpen

BALTIMORE -- Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz was activated Wednesday and was available to pitch an inning or two if needed in Boston's do-or-die game against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday night.

Buchholz was not used as the Red Sox lost a stunner to the O's 4-3.

The original plan was to send him back to the instructional league, but after Red Sox management discussed what was best for both the team and for Buchholz, all decided he would be activated and available to pitch.

"With the way things have gone we've proven we can play 14- or 15-inning games and if we're fortunate to have a blowout we'd love to pitch him," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "If we ever got into a situation, he could be the wild card."

Buchholz, who has been on the disabled list since mid-June with a stress fracture in his lower back, has worked two simulated games and tossed 18 pitches in an instructional league game last Monday, so he believes he's ready to face big league hitters. Buchholz also feels like his max pitch count is 35 at this point.

"I think so," he said. "To come in and get three outs, or so, whatever they need me to get I think (I'm ready). I feel like the pitches are there and my arm feels good and my body feels good. If it's a grind, it's a grind."

If the Red Sox and the Rays both win (or lose) Wednesday and a one-game playoff is needed on Thursday, there's no chance Buchholz will start that game. With the Red Sox's loss and a Rays win against the Yankees, no playoff game is needed as the Red Sox head home for the offseason.

"Nah, I don't think they'll let me do that," Buchholz said. "I would only be able to go an inning or two and if something happened where I got off to a bad start that wouldn't be good for the team to try to come from behind in a situation like that. If I don't get in there today and there happens to be a game tomorrow hopefully that'll be a time where I can help this team out."

The Red Sox placed third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who's suffering from a sports hernia and hip bursitis, on the 60-day disabled list to create room on the active 40-man roster for Buchholz.

Joe McDonald covers the Red Sox for ESPNBoston.com.