Clay Buchholz set for start vs. Rays

BOSTON -- Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz threw a 43-pitch minor league rehab start for Triple-A Pawtucket on Sunday afternoon at McCoy Stadium and everything went as planned. Now, he's scheduled to start the second game of the Tampa Bay Rays series on Saturday in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The PawSox's game was televised, so Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine was able to watch.

"He looked pretty much the way we needed him to look for those 40 pitches," Valentine said. "I'm glad he got his spikes wet in Triple-A and he's confident he'll be able to give us some length on the second game out."

Buchholz tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings and allowed only one hit with two walks and three strikeouts against Syracuse on Sunday.

"It was hot," he said early Sunday evening in the clubhouse at Fenway Park. "I think it was the hottest game I've pitched in over the last year or so. Physically I felt good. Going out there and warming up I felt like I was going to get tired pretty quick, but it never really happened.

"I caught a second wind about 15 pitches into the first inning and it kept me all the way through the next two. Everything was good, just a little rusty there in the first. The command wasn't all that well with the fastball, but I was able to throw some curveballs for strikes and a couple off-speed pitches."

The right-hander has been on the DL since suffering a gastrointestinal bleed that resulted in a five-day hospital stay last month. He last pitched for the Red Sox on June 19.

He will throw again in some capacity during the All-Star break and is scheduled to increase his workload in preparation for his start on Saturday.

Buchholz has an 8-2 record with a 5.53 ERA in 14 starts this season. Now that his health issues are a thing of the past, he's looking forward to a strong second half.

"A whole lot," he said. "We're going to get (Jacoby Ellsbury) back, hopefully (Carl Crawford) and they're two keys to our offense and our defense out there. It's fun to pitch and give up lasers in the outfield when you got two guys like that who can go out and grab them. I think it will be good. I got my break so my body feels strong and healthy. I'm definitely ready to go."

Meanwhile, Crawford will play at Triple-A Pawtucket on Thursday. The left fielder suffered a minor setback and he was removed from his rehab assignment due to a mild groin strain on Saturday.

"He's feeling pretty good," Valentine said.

Crawford said Sunday he gave some thought to having surgery to repair the sprained ligament in his left elbow, but elected to try to play instead.

"I thought about it," he said, "but at this point if I can play, I think they want me on the field, so I'm just trying to do everything I can to get back on the field."

As to whether it is best for him to play now, he said: "Right now, I feel if I couldn't help the team, I wouldn't get out there. I think helping the team right now is best for me."

Asked whether doctors have told him he will definitely need surgery, he said: "Probably at some point. It's one of those deals, it is what it is. At some point it is going to go out on me."

Crawford expects that he ultimately will require Tommy John reconstruction surgery. The typical recovery time for position players who have the surgery is six to eight months; the usual estimate for a pitcher is 12 to 15 months.

The elbow does not hurt when he swings the bat, he said. It bothers him most, he said, when he is warming up before a game.

Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks is not feeling any more ill effects from a hamstring strain that has kept him out of the lineup for seven consecutive games. Nonetheless, Valentine decided the rookie infielder would not play in the series finale against the Yankees just to be on the safe side, especially with a four-day break due to All-Star festivities.

Valentine said he wanted to avoid "a major setback somewhere between now and then," adding that Middlebrooks "looked really good (Sunday) out there running and says he feels really good. Because it's just one game, and it could be five more days of safeness, I'm leaning toward not having him play."

Middlebrooks has been able to participate in all baseball activities.

Ellsbury went 1-for-4 with a run as he started in center field for the PawSox. He's now 5-for-23 with two doubles, a homer, three RBIs, five runs and four walks in a total of seven minor league rehab games. He'll continue to work out at Fenway during the break and he could be activated soon thereafter.

"When he's ready, he'll be ready, but it's probably getting pretty close," Valentine said. After Boston's 7-3 loss to the Yankees on Sunday night, Valentine said he expects Ellsbury to be with the Sox when they resume play Friday at the Rays.

Jon Lester, who started the series finale against the Yankees on Sunday night, will have an extended break since Valentine decided the southpaw would not start again until July 16, when the Red Sox host the Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park.

Information from ESPNBoston.com's Gordon Edes was used in this report.