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Progress for Buchholz, a new day for Lester

07.18.11 at 6:40 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz moved up his throwing program to 120 feet on Monday. (AP)

BALTIMORE — The rehab of Red Sox starting pitcher Clay Buchholz, on the DL since mid-June due to persistent soreness in his lower back, took a step forward on Monday, as the right-hander pushed his throwing program out to 120 feet on flat ground. That is the third step in a gradual progression of his arm strength that has seen him throw from 60 and then 90 feet. The next step after throwing at 120 feet will be for the 26-year-old to throw off a mound in a short bullpen session.

“That’s good,” manager Terry Francona said of Buchholz’ latest step forward. “Ramp up that intensity a little bit.”

Buchholz (6-3, 3.48 ERA) said over the weekend in Tampa Bay that he is still feeling lingering discomfort in his lower back. However, it appears that he is still edging closer to a return despite the fact that he is physically at less than 100 percent.

– Francona suggested that he misspoke on Sunday in stating that Jon Lester would return to the rotation next Tuesday. A simple mix-up led to the gaffe; Lester is in fact slated to pitch on Monday in the first game of a four-game series against the Royals.

– The Red Sox will not use Alfredo Aceves out of the bullpen on Monday after his three-inning relief effort, and they plan to steer clear of Daniel Bard following his 27-pitch ninth inning (the second of back-to-back games). Aside from that, however, the Sox bullpen emerged in surprisingly good shape from their marathon 16-inning, 1-0 victory on Monday. Closer Jonathan Papelbon will be available, and both Dan Wheeler and Randy Williams did not have to pitch on Sunday, so they should be available to take on innings if needed.

– With David Ortiz out, Jacoby Ellsbury will get his first ever start as a DH. The move is intended to let the Sox’ center fielder and leadoff man rest his legs.

– The Sox arrived at their team hotel a bit after 6 a.m. after their 5 hour, 44 minute affair in Tampa Bay on Sunday night.

Read More: Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester,
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