Buchholz on track for post-break return

BOSTON -- Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, who has been on the disabled list since June 20 with esophagitis, is on track to rejoin the starting rotation on either its first or second turn after the All-Star break, manager Bobby Valentine said Friday.

"He threw a 'pen today," Valentine said. "He's feeling great. He's throwing well. His 'pens have been very good. His weight is all back."

Valentine said the team has not decided whether to have Buchholz make a rehab start before he's activated and said that might take the form of a simulated game here.

Other takeaways from Valentine's pregame session, and other notes:

• On pitcher Daniel Bard, who endured a hellacious outing Thursday in Pawtucket, hitting two batters, uncorking two wild pitches (one of which hit the plate umpire), and allowing a two-run double and an RBI single:

"I have confidence that Daniel is going to be just fine. I guess he had a control problem once in his life and got over it and seems to have gotten to a very, very high level of performance, and I think he will do it again."

• Outfielder Scott Podsednik, on the DL since June 18 with a groin strain, was examined Friday, is ready to go and could be activated this weekend. Teams are allowed a 26th roster player for doubleheaders, under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, and Podsednik could be that player for Saturday's day-nighter.

• Pitching matchups for Saturday: Franklin Morales versus Freddy Garcia in the day game, Felix Doubront versus Phil Hughes in the nightcap.

• Valentine was asked whether Darnell McDonald's presence on the Yankees means he'll have to change the team's signs. "Darnell was one of the guys who knew the signs," he said. "We're going to change them." Valentine was smiling when he said it, but McDonald probably was in the minority.

Dustin Pedroia became the 20th Sox player to be placed on the DL this season; the Sox have used the DL 23 times, with disabled players missing a total of 906 games entering play Friday night.

Valentine was asked whether, given the circumstances, he was satisfied with the team's 42-40 record.

"I'm not happy about it at all," he said. "No, no, no.

"There were a lot of games we let slip away. Hopefully we'll tighten it up, play good baseball and win a lot more games in the next 80. It is what it is. That's where we are. I wish we were better."

• Third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who did not play while the team was being swept in three games in Oakland because of a tight left hamstring, has run each of the past two days. He said he was at about 75 percent but was planning to play at some point this weekend. Valentine said he could be available to pinch hit Friday night.

• Valentine said he elected to play Mauro Gomez at third base because he "provides a little more offense" than his other options, which presumably included Nick Punto, Brent Lillibridge and Pedro Ciriaco. Gomez made 31 errors in 71 games at third in the minors, and has played exclusively at first base and DH in Pawtucket. He made one other start at third for the Sox this season and has been "working out religiously" at the position in Pawtucket, the manager said. "I'll bet you [Gomez] has more reps at third than Punto or Lillibridge," he said.

Punto has played 307 games at third base, including 12 with the Sox this season. He was in the lineup at second base Friday night.

• The Yankees went into Friday's game with a major league-high 126 home runs this season, just one short of the franchise-record 127 they hit in the first half of the 2002 season. They have 25 home runs in their past 14 games and have a major league-high six players with 10 or more homers: Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Raul Ibanez, Alex Rodriguez, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira.

The Red Sox are sixth in the league and fourth in the American League East with 97 home runs.