NEW YORK — Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia said Thursday that the pain in his lower back is under control and he expects to return to the Red Sox lineup on Saturday.
Saltalamacchia has been out for three days to manage an injury that had steadily been getting worse.
“There’s nothing structurally wrong. But there was a lot of inflammation in there and it was bothering,” Saltalamacchia said. “I’ve had some back issues before but this was more than that. It’s not serious, but I needed some time.”
Saltalamacchia worked out and did some throwing on Thursday before the game, and is planning to take batting practice on Friday.
“We did the right thing. This is going to help me be ready for the rest of the season, and hopefully October,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss two games against the Tigers or any games against the Yankees. But we want to make sure we take care of it.”
Said manager John Farrell: “He’s getting better with daily treatment. He still has some other functional activity and testing to go through . . . some of the rotational [movements] are not as hindering as it was a couple of days ago. We do expect him back on the field this weekend.”
Saltalamacchia is hitless in his last 14 at-bats, a mini-slump he attributes to the soreness.
Saltalamacchia has started 99 games behind the plate, the most of his career. When backup catcher David Ross missed two months recovering from a concussion, the Red Sox leaned heavily on Saltalamacchia.
“I was following what he was doing from home and I was impressed. He carried the load,” Ross said. “He’s done such a good job and taken on a leadership role with this team.
“He’s played more than people expected and he turned himself into a great player.
Saltalamacchia is hitting .263 with a .776 OPS. His 35 doubles are second on the team and he has 11 home runs.
“He’s had the reins and he took them and ran with it,” Ross said. “I was here to give him breaks and he was the one picking me up.”
Rookie righthander Brandon Workman came into Tuesday night’s game against Detroit with one job: to retire Miguel Cabrera. He fell behind, 2 and 0, but got Cabrera on a fly to right field.
It was the first time in his career that Workman was called on to face one batter. As the team uses a deeper bullpen this month and perhaps matches up more in the later innings, it could become more common.
“If that’s part of my job, I’d welcome it,” Workman said. “It was a good situation to be in because it was a close game. But I think you have to pitch the same way no matter what.”
Farrell likes the flexibility Workman provides. He has the durability to go more than one inning and the quality pitches to handle one big hitter.
“In a [high]-leverage situation, we’ve come to trust his composure and his mound presence to be able to execute in those situations,” Farrell said.
“With his curveball and his fastball, he has the ability to go about 16-18 miles per hour of separation. Unlike [Junichi Tazawa], where’s it going to be closer together where the margin of error might be less, it’s a different look.
“Against certain types of hitters, one look might fit better than another.”
Workman started this season with Double A Portland and now finds himself a key pitcher in the bullpen in the pressure of a pennant race.
“I wanted to get here this season in any role,” he said. “I never expected it would all happen like it did. But it’s great to have the chance that I have.”
The Red Sox had righthanded starter Allen Webster pitch an inning of relief for Triple A Pawtucket on Wednesday night in an International League playoff game. He will pitch out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season, whether it is with Pawtucket or Boston.
Webster is 1-2 with a 9.57 earned run average in six starts for the big club this season. In Triple A, he is 8-4 with a 3.60 ERA in 21 starts.
The Red Sox still see the 23-year-old as a starter down the road. But for now, pitching in relief could be of assistance to the major league team.
Sticking with five
With Clay Buchholz expected to be activated off the disabled list next week, the Red Sox will have to adjust their rotation. Farrell said the team would use a five-man rotation and shift one of the starters to the bullpen. He said the Sox have not yet decided whom that would be. But Buchholz has been pitching on the same schedule as Ryan Dempster . . . Daniel Nava walked in the third inning to extend his streak of reaching base safely to 40 starts. It’s the longest active streak in the majors and the longest for a Red Sox player since Kevin Youkilis reached in 44 straight in 2008 . . . Single A infielder Sean Coyle will not be able to play in the Arizona Fall League because of an injury. The Red Sox will send Salem’s Mookie Betts in his place.Peter Abraham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.