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Clay Buchholz takes another positive step in rehab

Clay Buchholz said  his intensity level was high and hoped to throw off the mound soon.

Michael Dwyer/AP

Clay Buchholz said his intensity level was high and hoped to throw off the mound soon.

After throwing 75-80 feet on flat ground Wednesday, Clay Buchholz said his intensity level was high and hoped to throw off the mound within the next couple days.

He threw for the second time since being shut down last Thursday, increasing the distance from the 60 feet he tossed from on Tuesday. The goal remains to throw from 120 feet before moving to the mound.

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“Took a couple days off, then easy toss yesterday and then today more intense — probably the most intense I’ve been regardless of being flat ground or on the mound,” said Buchholz, who was placed on the disabled list June 18 (retroactive to June 9) with a neck strain. “So given that, it feels fine. I’m getting off that uphill slope and moving downhill.

“It’s going to be still day to day. See how I feel tomorrow, treat it and probably throw again, I would say. Once I get out to 120 feet and let it go from that distance then I can move and get on the mound. So, it could be tomorrow or it could be a couple days.”

Buchholz hasn’t pitched since June 8.

The concern was that he could feel lingering pain in his followthrough when he pitched off the mound with any intensity.

“I think if I’m throwing with the same intensity on flat ground and on the mound, then I have to do a little bit more flat ground stuff to feel where I was feeling off the mound,” Buchholz said. “That’s sort of what I went at today, to go with a little more intensity, and there was never a thought in my head like, ‘OK, I can’t go that far.’ That’s what I was feeling before. That’s a good step for me in the right direction to clear my mind and move on with this process.”

While Buchholz has gone on feel to gauge how much he could throw, manager John Farrell has taken a more structured approach to judge signs of progress.

“Today was another step, another good workday for him,” Farrell said. “He was out to 75-80 feet with pretty good intensity for that session. But the fact is, there’s no restrictions. There’s no feelings of any kind of discomfort all the way through the arm stroke, and that’s first and foremost.

“We still have to get out to 120 feet before we do get him out to the mound, but just talking with Clay, there’s — I don’t want to say a little bit of relief in there — but there’s certainly a better outlook than maybe seven, 10 days ago.

Farrell initially expected Buchholz would possibly have to make two rehab starts once he’s healthy.

“If I felt like I was fine to throw in one rehab start, I don’t think I would need two unless I didn’t have a feel for my pitches or anything,” said Buchholz.

Napoli takes a seat

Mike Napoli sat out Wednesday night for both matchup reasons and rest, but Farrell insisted the drop in power production since April has nothing to do with Napoli’s hip.

“With tomorrow being a day game, try to get some guys off their feet in advance of tomorrow,” Farrell said. “As much of a matchup against [Edinson] Volquez as well, where we try to get another one or two lefthanded bats in the lineup.”

Compared with his scorching start (.269 average, 4 homers, 13 doubles, 1 triple, and 27 RBIs in April), Napoli’s numbers have plunged. He hit .263 with just two extra-base hits in June. Farrell said that although he hasn’t talked about it yet with Napoli, there has been some discussion about moving him out of the fifth spot.

“We’re working on trying to create a little bit more of a shorter stroke,” Farrell said. “We can’t pinpoint anything physically. Given what he’s come through in the offseason, people might naturally think that there’s something going on there, which there isn’t.’’

Rookie ball

It was barely more than a month ago that Jose Iglesias was sulking in Pawtucket after being sent down.

But since he was called up May 24, he’s hit .415, reaching base in 37 of 39 games with a plate appearance, at one point rattling off an 18-game hit streak.

The turnaround earned him American League rookie of the month honors for June.

“It’s my goal to be on base for the team and I’m feeling pretty good so far,” Iglesias said. “I think being consistent in my routine every single day and trying to get better in each aspect and just keep playing the game, hopefully stay healthy.’’

A natural shortstop, Iglesias caught his break when third baseman Will Middlebrooks hit the disabled list.

Middlebrooks, meanwhile, matched a franchise record with eight RBIs in the PawSox’s 11-5 victory over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Wednesday at Pawtucket. Middlebrooks had a pair of homers, a three-run shot and a grand slam.

Drew improving

Stephen Drew went through running drills, took ground balls, and also batting practice Wednesday, but Farrell said he doesn’t expect the shortstop to return before Friday. “This is a good step today for him for the type of work he’s doing, the volume that’s associated with it, and we’re still kind of on the same time frame with his potential return,” Farrell said . . . After being designated for assignment Saturday, relief pitcher Clayton Mortensen cleared waivers and was optioned outright to Triple A Pawtucket. In 30 innings, Mortensen had a 5.34 ERA with 21 strikeouts . . . The Red Sox signed two of their draft picks, lefthander Mike Adams (seventh round) and outfielder Jeff Driskel (29th round). Driskel is the University of Florida’s starting quarterback and has not played baseball since high school. He is going into his junior season with the Gators and will not play in the minors. By signing him, the Sox retain his rights should he return to baseball . . . With a day game after a night game, Ryan Lavarnway likely will start at catcher Thursday and Jarrod Saltalamacchia will get the day off . . . David Ross, who was placed on the 60-day disabled list because of a concussion June 18, will meet with Dr. Michael Collins in Pittsburgh Tuesday. “He started to work out with some exercise on the elliptical, stationary bike, he started to throw a little bit, lift some weights,” Farrell said. “So the sensations that he feels as a result of the concussion are starting to really diminish.”

Peter Abraham of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.
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