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Red Sox notes: Earliest possible return for Clay Buchholz would be Thursday; David Ortiz to play in Philadelphia

05.27.13 at 5:41 pm ET
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Red Sox manager John Farrell said Monday that he doesn’t expect Clay Buchholz‘s collarbone/AC joint injury to sideline him for more than a few days.

“He feels improved over yesterday,” Farrell said. “We don’t anticipate this being more than a couple of days extended before he’s back on the mound for us. We haven’t yet set the rotation where he slots back in – we obviously had to wait for his throwing session today to figure out that. So a positive day for him.”

“He’s got two consecutive days of throwing leading up to a start, so the earliest day would be Thursday.”

Farrell said Buchholz will throw his regular bullpen sessions but won’t throw a simulated inning before returning to the rotation.

Although he said he’d like to separate Buchholz and Jon Lester in the rotation to ease the bullpen’s load, Farrell said it’s not as much of a concern as it was earlier in the season.

“We’d like for it to be [a factor in where Buchholz will pitch], but we’re limited on availability,” Farrell said. “Not only availability, but need. In the interim, Felix [Doubront] is coming along, John Lackey‘s working deeper in games, so innings need hopefully is less of a demand for us. So maybe there’s some flexibility on us this time through, more than was the case two turns ago.”

OTHER RED SOX NOTES

Ryan Dempster has struggled in his last few starts after a strong month of April, most recently lasting only three innings against the Indians on May 23. Farrell said some issues with Dempster’s pitching motion are making it harder for him to use his secondary pitches as effectively as he did earlier in the year.

“He’s not only not worked downhill, it’s taken away from the shape and execution of his secondary pitches,” Farrell said. “When he was right, or when he was throwing well, he’d be able to go to that slider or that cutter anytime in the count, particularly 3-2, for strikeouts. The splitter has been a little bit elusive, so it shows that he’s been pushing the ball, and from a timing standpoint in his delivery, he’s just been out of sync somewhat. His side session the other day was encouraging from the standpoint of being able to repeat that delivery. ‘€¦ The tough thing is, you get to the number of pitches thrown in consecutive innings, regardless of the stage of career – you can’t keep doing that for him.”

Dempster, 36, has thrown at least 100 pitches in eight of his 10 starts. Farrell said he’s had some aches and pains that could be affecting his delivery as well.

“The one day that we went out and checked him, he had that cramping sensation in the groin, and that kind of rears its head from time to time,” Farrell said. “He deals with that, so I’ve got to believe at some level that contributes to it. It’s all part of this.”

- After Tuesday’s game, the Sox will visit Philadelphia for their first two games in a National League park this year. Farrell said David Ortiz and Mike Napoli will each play one day at first base and be available off the bench in the other game , though he hasn’t yet decided who will play which game.

While he acknowledged the disadvantage American League teams face in NL parks, Farrell found the bright side: since interleague play is now spread out throughout the year, it’s less disruptive to the way AL teams set their lineups.

“The biggest thing in favor of our schedule this year is we don’t have that nine-game consecutive run in National League parks,” Farrell said. “David’s usage could become more sporadic, so from that standpoint the schedule works in our favor a little bit.”

- Alfredo Aceves‘ return tonight is his first major-league start since he allowed eight runs in 3 1/3 innings to the A’s on April 23. He pitched one scoreless inning for the Sox in relief on May 24, and Farrell said he has met the goals the team set for him when they sent him down to Triple-A Pawtucket in April.

“When we sent him down, we challenged him with the fact of going down to more consistently execute his stuff,” Farrell said. “That meant pitching ahead in the count more frequently, which he did in the starts he made in Pawtucket. With consistent work, we saw some increase in velocity. He flashed that the other night in one inning of work. This isn’t based on the velocity that shows up on the scoreboard but more getting ahead in the count and being able to take advantage of the secondary pitches he does have, which are very good. But it was a matter of being more consistent with pitching ahead in the count.”

- Jonathan Papelbon returns to Fenway Park for the first time tonight since signing with the Phillies after the 2011 season, carrying an 0.96 ERA and an 0.64 WHIP into Monday’s game. Farrell said he sees several reasons, both mental and physical, why Papelbon has been able to sustain a successful career longer than most closers.

“He’s got a very good short-term memory,” Farrell said. “On the days that don’t go well, he puts it behind him. Two, people recognize Pap as a closer but you’re talking about an exceptional athlete that can channel that adrenaline and that emotion to commanding his fastball. When you see his ability to command a mid-90s fastball to the locations that he does for as long as he has, not to mention a very good split ‘€¦ he’s got the presence of mind in those situations to channel the adrenaline and he’s a rare, rare pitcher.

Farrell was with the Red Sox when the team considered converting Papelbon from a closer to a starter, and said his array of pitches simply made him better suited for a closing role.

“What we saw was a lot of foul balls, a lot of high pitch counts quick,” Farrell said. “Did he have something soft to get hitters out with consistently – was it a changeup or was it a curveball that spread some hitters out. The fact was, he was so good in one-inning stints because everything played up so well, and he’s turned out to be a pretty good closer.”

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