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Red Sox pregame notes: Starters going deep important while Stephen Drew is sidelined; Will Middlebrooks finding stroke in Pawtucket; Clay Buchholz still coming along

07.04.13 at 1:50 pm ET
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That the Red Sox roster has been in something of a state of flux lately is no secret, with nagging injuries enough to keep certain players out of action but not enough to require a trip to the disabled list.

The latest in-betweener is Stephen Drew, who has not played since leaving Friday’s game vs. the Blue Jays with a tight hamstring. Drew being sidelined necessitated backup infielder Jonathan Diaz‘€™ call-up to the major leagues, leaving the Red Sox an arm short in the bullpen.

The Red Sox starters, however, have helped shoulder the load for their relieving brethren. After Felix Doubront‘s 6 1/3 innings Friday and Ryan Dempster‘€™s 5 1/3 frames Sunday preceded on off day, the team received impressive outings from John Lackey (eight innings) and Jon Lester (seven innings) the last two days.

That the Red Sox have had lengthy ‘€” and effective ‘€” starts has been of tremendous help, according to John Farrell.

‘€œYou would hope that would be more the norm,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œIt has such an effect, a trickle-down effect, particularly to the bullpen. Obviously, by being out there, they’€™re pitching well, so we’€™re in the game. They’€™re probably giving us a chance to win that night, and when you go to the guys in the ‘€˜pen, they come to you rested.

‘€œThat group has been pushed pretty hard through the first two and a half, three months of the season, so as the weather is heating up and the innings are starting to pile up, it’€™s coming at a good time.’€

While Farrell is mindful of not wanting to overwork the bullpen, the six relievers have not had any trouble while being a man down. Led by closer Koji Uehara, who has thrown in three of the four games, they have allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings (2.70 ERA), fanning nine and walking just two.

The biggest test of the shortened ‘€˜pen could come Thursday. Righty Allen Webster has averaged four and a half innings in his four starts, none as effective as his season debut April 21 (two earned runs in six innings).

Farrell said Webster has been more comfortable of late, having been through three straight turns in the major league rotation, and the manager expects the rookie to settle into a rhythm against the Padres.

Drew, meanwhile, could return Saturday, according to Farrell. The shortstop completed running drills Wednesday and Thursday and, while he is still day-to-day, is consistently making progress.

‘€œHe’€™s moving in the right direction,’€ Farrell said.

Other Red Sox notes:

Will Middlebrooks is hitting .333 (10-for-30) with Triple-A Pawtucket since his demotion last Tuesday. He has done nearly all of his damage ‘€” four homers, one double, 12 RBIs ‘€” in the last three games.

Farrell said he got good reports on the third baseman after a 4-for-5, two-homer, eight-RBI effort while handling designated hitter duties Wednesday.

‘€œObviously the two home runs, the eight RBI, all that adds up to his bat path through the strike zone when he’€™s at his best,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œA couple home runs to straightaway center and right-center, obviously a very good day for him.’€

That said, a couple big days in a row doesn’€™t mean the team is looking to rush him back to the majors.

‘€œAs it was outlined to Will when he was optioned down, he’€™s on option,’€ Farrell said. ‘€œThat’€™s very different from a rehab assignment with an end date in mind. He’€™s there to get on a roll that we are confident he will.’€

– Injured righty Clay Buchholz threw from about 90 feet Thursday, a day after he played catch at about 75 feet (not 100 as Buchholz estimated Wednesday).

Farrell said Buchholz will either take Friday off or just play light catch, then continue with the 15-foot increments from there. Buchholz will need to throw from 120 feet before he gets back on a mound.

Read More: allen webster, Clay Buchholz, John Farrell, Stephen Drew
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