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Clay Buchholz thought he would be gone from Red Sox, but Dave Dombrowski had other ideas 08.24.16 at 2:09 am ET
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Clay Buchholz has been on quite a roll. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz has been on quite a roll. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was a good moment for Clay Buchholz.

The Red Sox starter not only could revel in his 6 1/3-inning, one-run outing against the Rays Tuesday night, but he could do so while passing on the good news to his family, which was back home in Texas. (Buchholz’s daughter had just started kindergarten the day before.) And he was living this life while sitting at the familiar Tropicana Field visiting clubhouse locker, one he had inhabited for the majority of his time visiting as a Red Sox.

Considering his success at the home of the Rays (3-0 with a 0.54 ERA in his last five Tropicana Field starts), the scene was a familiar one for Buchholz.

Yet, as he admitted after the Red Sox’ 2-1 win, it was a moment he didn’t think would be presenting itself by the time Aug. 23 game around. At least not in a Boston uniform.

“No. I don’t think so,” Buchholz said when asked if he thought he would be pitching in a Red Sox uniform by the time Aug. 23 came around. “I wasn’t really worried about it because I know what I can do on a baseball field. I’ve done it for a long time. Sometimes you struggle and the game forces you to make adjustments that you didn’t necessarily know you needed to make. There were a couple of adjustments I needed to make. The bullpen scenario, that actually helped me out with it. Just sort of dumb it down and not overthink things I was overthinking at the time. Just try and have fun with it again rather it be a chore every time you step out there.”

But there was Buchholz, still wearing the gray and reds. For that, he could the approach taken by Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski heading into the non-waiver trade deadline.

“We just felt his stuff was good enough to pitch at the big league level and be successful,” Dombrowski said. “It’s hard to find good big league pitchers, and he has that type of stuff. We knew we needed protection in case we had an injury. We didn’t have anybody else to protect us. So that combination was important. He’s been successful at the big league level, and our guys here had seen him be successful. We just felt he could do it again.

“We weren’t really looking to move him. You listen on anybody, but we weren’t looking to move him.”

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David Ortiz on Mookie Betts’ throw: ‘One of the best I’ve ever seen’ 08.23.16 at 11:32 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — One out. Eighth inning. Tying run at the plate. Red Sox outfielder saves the day with a spectacular play. Sound familiar?

One night after Andrew Benintendi’s catch robbed Steven Souza Jr. of a home run, and the Rays the chance to draw within a run in the eighth, it was Mookie Betts’ turn to make his mark.

With the Red Sox clinging to a one-run lead, reliever Brad Ziegler allowed Kevin Kiermaier to rip a line drive down the first-base line and into the right-field corner. With Kiermaier, one of the game’s fastest players, racing around the bases, Betts calmly took the carom off the padding, scooped up the ball and fired it toward third baseman Travis Shaw.

“Wow. That was unbelievable. One of the best I’ve ever seen,” Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz said after his team’s 2-1 win Tuesday night at Tropicana Field. “And you might think it was probably a bad [baserunning] play, but if that throw wasn’t that perfect he would have been safe. I think he did that right thing. I didn’t know he was that fast. Wow, that kid can fly. But that throw was perfect. It was unbelievable.”

Said Kiermaier: “Just kind of shock over there at third base how I got thrown out. I watched the video after the game, and saw he made an absolutely perfect throw. … I always want to put the pressure on defense, and it’s going to take a perfect throw to throw me out. In this moment, he made an absolutely perfect throw. I would not change anything. I’d do it again. I tip my hat to him.”

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Closing Time: Clay Buchholz continues resurgence in Red Sox’ win over Rays 08.23.16 at 10:19 pm ET
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Clay Buchholz turned in a gem against the Rays Tuesday night. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Clay Buchholz turned in a gem against the Rays on Tuesday night. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Wondering why the Red Sox have won 10 of their last 12, while going 7-2 on the current road trip? Clay Buchholz offered a pretty powerful explanation Tuesday night.

The fill-in starter kept his good times going, this time holding the Rays to just a run over 6 1/3 innings in leading the Red Sox to a 2-1 win at Tropicana Field. Since July 27, Buchholz has totaled a 1.96 ERA, this time managing nine strikeouts along the way.

But this isn’t anything out of the norm for this team while plowing through four cities in the last nine days. The Red Sox starters have now managed a 2.45 ERA on the current trip, and that’s with Henry Owens’ eight-run misstep Sunday. In fact, just two times on the swing Sox starters have given up more than one run.

As for Buchholz, he officially has become one of the Red Sox’ most important pitchers. In his three starts filling in for the injured Steven Wright, the righty has managed a 2.70 ERA.

This time, the Sox starter finished with 94 pitches, the most he’s thrown since June 26. It put Buchholz’s record at 3-0 with an 0.54 ERA in his last five starts at Tropicana Field.

“I was always told the worm turns at some point,” the starter said. “Everybody that’s playing at this level is a good ballplayer and is here for a reason. I take pride in what I do. Good or bad, I try to know what’s going on. In this organization, doing a little bit bad is doing really bad because you hear about it from everywhere. I’ve learned to deal with that. I know I’m going to have some good outings and some bad outings, but I feel like these last two starts, I’m going forward now instead of staying in the same spot or moving backwards.”

With the win the Red Sox remain in a first-place tie with Toronto, which claimed a 7-2 win over the Angels. The Sox improved to a season-high 17 games over .500, their highest point since ending the 2013 season at 97-65.

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The Tropicana Field table that saved Andrew Benintendi 08.23.16 at 8:50 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Much of the talk in and around the Red Sox clubhouse Monday night and Tuesday involved the great catch made by Andrew Benintendi. In case you aren’t familiar, take a look …

But, as Benintendi explained after the Red Sox win, the only reason he was able to brace himself and bounce back onto the playing surface was due to a well-placed table.

Here is that table:

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Red Sox notes: Steven Wright ready to go for Friday’s start; Eduardo Rodriguez aces simulated game; Koji Uehara surprisingly ‘aggressive’ 08.23.16 at 6:50 pm ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The last we saw Steven Wright on the mound (and not the basepaths), he was pitching a complete-game shutout Aug. 5 against the Dodgers.

The bad news for the knuckleballer is that he isn’t expecting the feel of that outing at Dodger Stadium to carry over to his start Friday night at Fenway Park against the Royals.

“It was so long ago there really is no momentum,” Wright said. “Usually you try and use that momentum for your next start, five starts later. But that momentum has kind of come and gone. So for me it’s just going out there and not thinking about that last outing because it’s one of those things where it’s not affecting me good or bad. I just have to concentrate on throwing strike one and taking it pitch by pitch.”

The good news for Wright is that he will be pitching again, with the pain in his right shoulder having diminished.

The righty’s latest, and most important, test prior to hitting the mound again came Tuesday afternoon at Tropicana Field, when he threw a 60-pitch bullpen session that included getting up and down once. It went well enough that Wright was deemed ready to go in the Sox’ series opener vs. Kansas City.

“Obviously see how [Wednesday] goes, but today, to get through that, it’s big,” he said. “It’s still a little achy, but when I get out on the mound it doesn’t really bother me. I think it’s just something from not throwing consistently like I have been. It’s one of those things you have to get through. Kind of like it is at the beginning of spring training. But I don’t think it will take me as long, just because I’ve been throwing.”

With Wright moving back into the starting rotation, the assumption is that Clay Buchholz will slide back to the bullpen. Prior to Tuesday night’s game against the Rays, which Buchholz started, Red Sox manager John Farrell was non-committal regarding the pitcher’s specific role as a reliever.

“When his role ultimately changes, to be determined yet, but he has increased his responsibility and confidence in himself has certainly increased since he’s gone to the bullpen and now with his third start here [Tuesday],” Farrell said.

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How couch, tennis balls led Andrew Benintendi to catch of his life 08.22.16 at 11:49 pm ET
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It was an exercise virtually every kid executes in their living room. All you need is a ball and a piece of furniture. Good thing for Andrew Benintendi, he was no exception.

“I remember when I was a kid I would throw a tennis ball up over my couch and jump over it and catch it to practice,” the Red Sox rookie recalled.

It finally paid off.

Benintendi made the catch of the season Monday night at Tropicana Field, robbing Tampa Bay’s Steven Souza Jr. of a two-run home run in the eighth inning that would have cut the Sox’ lead to a run. Instead, it sent a bolt of adrenaline through the now-first-place Red Sox, helping propel the visitors to a 6-2 win over the Rays.

“That was the best one by far,” the 22-year-old said. “I’ve never had a chance to do that. It’s something I’ve talked about doing but never got the chance. It was fun to do.”

Making the moment happen was the fact that Benintendi had moved over to left field from center to begin the inning. So when Souza’s ball started tailing just inside the foul pole, the left-handed outfielder had the advantage of not having to reach across his body.

Another subtle help in making the play? A well-placed piece of furniture that prevented Benintendi from falling over the wall.

“There was a table, and if that wasn’t there I don’t know what would have happened,” he said.

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Closing Time: David Price’s pitching, Andrew Benintendi’s defense highlight another Red Sox win 08.22.16 at 10:24 pm ET
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David Price was dominant in the Red Sox' win Monday night. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

David Price was dominant in the Red Sox’ win Monday night. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — In case you haven’t noticed, this year’s David Price is starting to look a little more like last year’s David Price.

For the third straight start, the Red Sox starter was in complete control, this time dominating his former team, the Rays, for eight innings. Price only allowed two hits while striking out eight and walking a pair, leading his team to a 6-2 win. In his last three outings, the lefty has given up just four runs over 22 innings.

Making the start a bit more impressive was the fact that this was a Tampa Bay club that came into Monday night having won six of its last seven. The Red Sox, conversely, now have won nine of their last 11 games while improving to 6-2 on the current 11-game road trip.

This was the Price so many marveled during the final two months of the 2015 regular season. In case you forgot, it was August and September of 2015 that Price really got rolling, posting a 9-1 record and 2.30 ERA in the final two months of the regular season while pitching for the Blue Jays.

The outing was second straight standout start against the Rays by Price, who had shutout Kevin Cash’s team over eight innings the last time they met.

The game could have been a lot closer, however, if it wasn’t for Andrew Benintendi’s incredible catch in the eighth inning. Red Sox manager John Farrell leaving Price in for another inning, Tim Beckham led off the frame with a single.

Steven Souza Jr. proceeded to launch a Price pitch deep into the left field corner, seemingly long enough for a two-run blast. But Benintendi, who had moved over from center field to start the inning, leaped over the wall, folded his body over the padding, and grabbed what would have been a sure home run.

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If all goes well Tuesday, Steven Wright to start Friday night 08.22.16 at 6:54 pm ET
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Steven Wright

Steven Wright

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Steven Wright threw a bullpen Sunday and for the first time since injuring his right shoulder felt no pain. He tossed a bit on the mound at Tropicana Field Monday and, once again, was pain-free.

Now comes the final test.

On Tuesday, Wright will throw an extended bullpen session, simulating the ups and downs of a game. If that goes like the previous two days, then he will be returning to the rotation. Specifically, the knuckleballer tentatively is slated to start for the Red Sox against the Royals on Friday night at Fenway Park.

“It feels normal,” Wright said. “I’m just trying to get my release point back. If everything progresses the way it’s been, I see no reason why I wouldn’t be ready to pitch.”

Wright hasn’t pitched since Aug. 5, when he threw a complete-game three-hitter against the Dodgers. Two days later, the righty was injured when diving back into second base while serving as a pinch-runner.

For the season, Wright is 13-5 with a 3.01 ERA.

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It’s looking like Koji Uehara might be able to help this season after all 08.22.16 at 6:43 pm ET
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Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — While Koji Uehara seemingly has started to recover quicker than anticipated from the right pectoral strain that put him on the 15-day disabled list July 20, the Red Sox have made it a point to reel in the optimism most of the time.

But with Uehara slated to throw off a mound Tuesday afternoon for the first time since his injury, the idea of the 41-year-old returning to help this season is looking more realistic than ever.

“I don’t know when game action is even projected at this point. [Tuesday] is another real positive step for him,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “We’ll see. In the past Koji has gone through good years and been very productive when he’s had minimal spring training, if at all. I don’t want to discount the need for some game action, but the fact that he’s getting back to the mound is a good thing.”

Uehara hasn’t pitched since walking off the mound when pitching to his second batter in the Red Sox’ July 19 game against the Giants.

Prior to his injury he had been pitching better, going four straight outings without allowing a run. For the season, Uehara’s ERA stands at 4.50, having converted six of eight save chances.

Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez, one of the few pitchers to experience the same injury as Uehara, offered some insight in recovering from the ailment when talking to WEEI.com’s Ryan Hannable.

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Eduardo Rodriguez explains what went wrong leading up to Sunday’s start, what it means going forward 08.22.16 at 6:19 pm ET
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Eduardo Rodriguez (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Eduardo Rodriguez expressed disappointment at having to skip Sunday’s start. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Eduardo Rodriguez admitted Sunday was not one his better days.

“Yeah, because I know it was partly my fault,” the Red Sox pitcher said of his team’s 10-5 loss to the Tigers, in which replacement starter Henry Owens was roughed up for eight runs in five innings. “I was supposed to pitch that game. I feel bad but I have to get ready for the next one.”

The lefty started that process of returning from his hamstring issue while at Tropicana Field prior to Monday night’s game, throwing about 70-80 percent effort level off the mound in the visitors’ bullpen under the watchful eye of pitching coach Carl Willis. On Tuesday he will continue the process by tossing a three-inning simulated game.

The way things are going, Rodriguez and Red Sox manager John Farrell both sound like the plan is for the pitcher to make his next start, although that has yet to be scheduled. The optimism, however, remains dependent on Tuesday’s exercise.

“We need to test him at more intense levels when compared to a normal bullpen,” Farrell said. “He went through treatment today, went out, went through a throwing program, everything is scheduled for that sim game tomorrow. So more than anything, it’s not so much to answer the physical side of it, but it’s for him to test it at a higher intensity and for him to gain some comfort mentally — that’s the biggest key, to go out and have that conviction to pitches to be thrown.”

And that brings us to the biggest issue: the mental side of the equation.

The way Rodriguez explained it, the reason for the (as Farrell described it) “second thoughts” was because of a lack of confidence that his hamstring would hold up. It was a mindset that lingered from his 2 2/3-inning, nine-run outing at Tropicana Field on June 27, during which he couldn’t shake the concern over his injured right knee.

“The thing is I had that experience before with my knee. I went out there and was just thinking about my knee and when I threw the ball, remember what happened here? I gave up nine runs because I was thinking of my knee and every pitch was right down the middle,” he said. “I don’t want to think about it. Because I had that experience before with my knee.

“I want to feel 100 percent. And I don’t want to think about it. Like I do right now, now I’m not thinking about my knee and I just throw the ball so I can get 100 percent and I’m not thinking about it.”

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