With only three career appearances, all this season, Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright was excited to learn Saturday he would be making the first start of his career Tuesday night in Houston.
The 28-year-old righthander (2-0, 3.65 ERA) said he was informed of his addition to the rotation by pitching coach Juan Nieves.
“I’m stoked. I’m excited,’’ Wright said before Sunday’s 4-0 victory over the Diamondbacks at Fenway Park. “I’m just trying to go out there and get as many innings as I can.’’
Manager John Farrell hoped Wright would accomplish precisely that when he opposes Astros righthander Jordan Lyles (4-5, 4.91) Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
“The reason is that we’re just trying to get guys an extra day of rest this time through,’’ said Farrell, noting that the Sox are embarking on a 10-game, 11-day road trip, the team’s longest of the season, to Houston, Kansas City, and Toronto.
Wright will follow righthander John Lackey, who will start Monday night’s opener of the series, and precede righty Ryan Dempster.
“They’ll also get an added day [of rest] with the next Monday being off before we open up that series in Toronto,’’ Farrell said. “It’s more just that time of the year and managing some overall rest.’’
Wright, who in his initial appearance this season gave up five runs on six hits in relief of Alfredo Aceves in a humbling 13-0 smackdown by the A’s April 23 at Fenway, bounced back to pick up the wins in his next two appearances, both against Seattle.
Farrell lauded Wright for his “consistent strike-throwing’’ in his last two outings, in which he threw a combined 8⅔ shutout innings, allowing five hits and three walks while striking out five.
“Compared to where he was in spring training from a delivery standpoint, repeating his release point, it’s much more consistent strikes,’’ Farrell said. “He’s starting to throw that knuckleball where he’s changing speeds on it. So, to me, in some ways he looks like a completely different pitcher from that night he followed Aceves — on a rainy night against Oakland here — to what he’s been doing the last two outings. It’s a much-improved Steven Wright.’’
Asked what he planned do in the next few days before making his first career start, Wright said, “Just be ready, get ready. I throw a knuckleball. There are not [many] scouting reports. There’s not much to do.
“For me, it’s just go out there throw good knuckleballs and hope it’s dancing.’’
After doing a long toss and some flat-ground work before Sunday’s game, Clay Buchholz said he was in agreement with his manager, who said the righthander was “getting closer to the mound.’’
On the shelf since June 9 with a neck strain, Buchholz said he was 80 percent but “felt good’’ after a pretty extensive long toss in which he threw from as far as 150 feet.
“The last two days have been really good days for me,’’ Buchholz said. “So, moving forward, we’ll try to map out what I can start doing and throw a little bit more to get the rhythm back to it.’’
Before the game, Farrell said, “You would hope that after today, and tomorrow being a little bit of a normal recovery day for him, that we’re getting closer to the mound. Hopefully we’ll be able to incorporate some work — whether that’s continued crow-hop off the mound or actually getting on it — I think the mound is definitely getting closer here.’’
Buchholz was asked if he felt like he was moving toward that objective.
“Yeah, I do,’’ he said. “I haven’t felt this good throwing since the day in Seattle that I played catch and didn’t feel anything. That’s sort of where we’re at right now and not do too much at one time. So, yeah, that’s the next step, just to get back on the rubber.’’
Drew hits stride
Stephen Drew went 2 for 3 with two runs and a walk, his third straight multi-hit game. But he said it wasn’t any more meaningful to be able to produce the way he did against his former team, going 6 for 9 with a homer, 3 RBIs, and 4 runs against the D-backs.
“It’s just another game,’’ Drew said. “I mean, of course you know the guys over there, they’re great guys and they have a good club. But the way we played tough games, our first two were pretty close, pitching came through and we played good defense and got timely hitting.’’
Drew has hit safely in seven of his last nine games, going 15 for 36 (.417) in that stretch.
“It just goes back to getting more consistent [at-bats] since coming off the DL stint,’’ Farrell said, referring to the 16 games Drew missed with a right hamstring strain from June 29 to July 20. “You could see some added authority in the swings. I think it shows the confidence with which he’s hitting. And I think it just took him a few games to get back into the flow of things, getting back from the All-Star break.’’
Lefthanded reliever Matt Thornton started the eighth inning in relief of Felix Doubront and was forced to leave after facing two batters because of tightness in his right oblique. “Second pitch to [Didi Gregorius] it started, then it got worse the next few pitches,’’ said Thornton, who gave up a single to Tuffy Gosewisch and then left after running the count to 1 and 2 against Gregorius. “I’ve never had a problem with it before. I hope it’s just a day-or-two thing, at worst.’’ Said Farrell: “You could see he was getting upright to protect it, so we knew we had to get him out of there.’’ . . . While Shane Victorino had his own adventures in right field, they did not compare with the rough day at the office of his Arizona counterpart, Gerardo Parra, who committed an error on a line drive by David Ortiz in the first inning and then lost a high Jacoby Ellsbury fly ball in the sun in the sixth and allowed it to drop for an RBI single. He was jeered by the crowd when he shielded his eyes to make a catch on a Jarrod Saltalamacchia fly in the seventh. “I feel for the guy any time you see your counterpart struggle with balls in the sun and even just dropping a ball,’’ Victorino said. “But, hey, it’s a benefit to us. But, again, it was not a fun day out there.’’ . . . Farrell was encouraged by Franklin Morales’s rehab stint Saturday night with Triple A Pawtucket in Buffalo, in which Morales, who has been on the DL since June 25 (left pectoral strain), threw 2⅓ perfect innings with three strikeouts. “Now that he’s got three outings under his belt — one being multiple innings — hopefully we’re getting out of the woods with what he’s been dealing with,’’ Farrell said.