HOUSTON — Red Sox righthander Clay Buchholz threw 27 pitches in the bullpen at Minute Maid Park Tuesday afternoon, his first such work since July 14 in Oakland, Calif.
He came away enthused about the condition of his shoulder and plans to throw again in Kansas City on Thursday or Friday.
“I’m not really sure how long it’s going to take, but I’m on my way,” said Buchholz, who has not pitched in a game since June 8.
Buchholz threw all his pitches, although not at game speed. The pain he felt in Oakland was gone.
“It was night and day compared to that,” Buchholz said. “It’s been a while since I’ve thrown with any kind of intensity off a mound. A little sore I guess from all the stuff we’ve been doing. But it’s different than the last time I was on the mound.”
Buchholz is several weeks from rejoining the rotation. He will need several bullpen sessions before advancing to either a simulated game or a minor league game.
Manager John Farrell said the Sox haven’t mapped out a schedule yet.
“He’s built up enough of a foundation now that we can build a mound progression,” Farrell said. “That’s still in the works, what makes the most sense . . . The biggest thing for me is what he stated after he completed the session. That was that he felt nothing.”
Buchholz said it “definitely” was a step forward for him. He believes the injury has healed up and he’s in a different phase of his recovery.
“It’s just going to be strength-building now and that comes from throwing,” he said. “The more I throw, I think, the better I’m going to feel.”
Buchholz was 9-0 with a 1.71 earned run average in 12 starts before he was shut down. His injury started out as a sore trapezius muscle and came to include inflammation in the bursa sac.
“Today was a good step for him,” Farrell said.
Lackey hangs in
John Lackey’s left ankle had a large red lump on the side, the result of the sprain he suffered in the second inning Monday night while fielding a ball. But the righthander pitched into the seventh inning and said he will make his start on Sunday as scheduled.
“Nothing a little tape can’t fix,” Lackey said.
Lackey gets an extra day of rest this week, the result of the Sox inserting Steven Wright into the rotation Tuesday.
Farrell said the Sox aren’t expecting to have to adjust their rotation. Lackey allowed two runs and struck out 10 in a 2-0 loss against the Astros despite the injury.
“I thought he did a great job considering the way he turned it and not trying to overthrow and come out of his delivery. He pitched with it and pitched pretty damn well with it,” Farrell said.
Lackey has a 3.21 earned run average but a 7-9 record. The Red Sox have averaged 3.45 runs in the 20 games he has started, by far the lowest run support on the staff.
Ryan Dempster (6.22 runs) gets the most run support followed by Jon Lester (5.34).
“Just keep pitching. That’s really all I can do,” Lackey said. “It’s bound to change.”
Thornton still out
Lefthander Matt Thornton, who strained an oblique muscle on his left side Sunday, remains on the 25-man roster but is unavailable to pitch.
Thornton played catch before the game and reported improvement. The Sox could decide Wednesday whether he will go on the disabled list.
“A good day for him. We’re still in that time frame of a roster decision might have to be made if we don’t see further progression,” Farrell said.
The Sox were prepared to activate lefthander Franklin Morales off the disabled list if needed. But his rehabilitation appearance with Triple A Pawtucket Tuesday was canceled because of a family emergency.
Dempster, who starts Wednesday in the series finale, has a 7.20 ERA in his last four starts and failed to complete six innings three times.
The 36-year-old righthander, who had a groin strain earlier in the season, said there is no physical issue.
“I’m not executing. That’s really all it is,” he said. “I have to be better than I have been. I don’t have any excuses.”
Farrell believes it’s been a case of poor matchups.
“He gets locked in when he faces a number of righthanded hitters where he can throw the ball down and away. That’s when he is establishing the release point that makes all his pitches work,” Farrell said. “Against [the Houston] lineup with a number of righthanded hitters, there’s more of an opportunity to do that. We fully expect him to pitch well.”
Lunch with Rocket
Buchholz, Dempster, and Lester had lunch with Roger Clemens and two of his sons before the game . . . According to Baseball America, the Sox will officially sign 16-year-old Dominican third baseman Rafael Devers later this week. Devers agreed to a $1.5 million deal in July . . . Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis, who attended the University of Houston, threw out the first pitch . . . The Sox will participate in the Massachusetts sales tax holiday by charging no fees for tickets purchased online between Thursday and Sunday.