ST. LOUIS — The Red Sox find themselves in the unusual position of going into a World Series game having little idea what they can expect from their starting pitcher.
Clay Buchholz will start Game 4 Sunday night against the Cardinals. Beyond that, nothing is certain. The 29-year-old righthander has said he has “tightness” in his right shoulder. But he will pitch.
“Everything is on go for [Sunday],” manager John Farrell said.
Buchholz did his usual pre-start work Saturday, which included throwing off the mound. That was his final hurdle for being cleared to pitch.
“Based on the conversations [Friday] with him and throughout the whole period that we’re focusing on, with each throwing session that confidence gains and grows along with the intensity,” Farrell said. “Whatever he is capable of, he feels like he’ll be able to give it.”
Buchholz missed three months with bursitis in his shoulder.
He returned to make four starts in September and pitched fairly well. But Buchholz has a 5.40 earned run average in three postseason starts and showed diminished velocity and stamina.
Buchholz last pitched Oct. 19 against Detroit in the American League Championship Series. He lasted only five innings and 85 pitches. Buchholz has been getting treatment in the days since.
“My one thing that I have is to go and compete. Go out there for as long as John wants to leave me out there, and give the team a chance to win to the best of my ability,” Buchholz said.
“Obviously given the couple of days that I’ve been out so far, not a hundred percent. But I’ve said it a couple of times this year, I don’t think anybody, especially at this time of the season, is a hundred percent.
“It’s going to be my first World Series experience being on the field, and I think that just the environment, the crowd, the adrenaline, that’s going to help me out, too.”
Buchholz has described the sensation as “tightness.”
“There’s not a whole lot of discomfort. The ball is not really coming out of my hand like it does in spring training or at the beginning of the season,” he said. “I think that’s true for the majority of the guys that have been pitching all year, and something that I’ve had to deal with over the last 3½ months. I’m still in the same shoes from that standpoint.”
Ryan Dempster, a starter during the regular season, could pitch long relief if needed for the Sox.
“I’m sure there’s going to be people talking to me each time I leave the field,” Buchholz said. “Being at this level, especially on this stage, it’s tough to take yourself out of a game. I’ve never done that before. But with this scenario that’s going on right now, I’m going to tell them the truth. It’s not going to be one of those times where you might be feeling tired, but still tell everybody that you’re good to go. “
Farrell acknowledged the Red Sox had “some conversation” about the idea of starting Jon Lester on three days’ rest. But that idea never took hold.
“History shows that’s not been successful,” Farrell said. “From a broader perspective on Lester, the last seven, eight weeks of the season he pitched on [five] days’ rest the entire time.
“He went on [four] days’ rest against Detroit [in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series], a little bit different stuff. It was noticeable. I recognize we’re in the World Series; I recognize the time of the year. I would rather have Jon Lester with normal rest than three days of rest.”
So it’s Buchholz.
“We deal with what we have. We make the most of it,” Farrell said.
The third degree?
The Red Sox had Mike Napoli taking ground balls at third base before the game. He played three games at the position in the minors, the last in 2004 for Single A Rancho Cucamonga.
“It’s an option,” Farrell said.
With no designated hitter for the three games at Busch Stadium, the Red Sox have a hole in their lineup without Napoli. David Ortiz, the usual DH, started at first base Saturday night.
With the Cardinals having only righthanded starters, the Red Sox are hoping Ortiz can start at least two of the games, if not all three.
Shortstop Stephen Drew went into Game 3 only 4 for 42 in the postseason. If Napoli is deemed acceptable at third base, the Red Sox could shift Xander Bogaerts to shortstop.
Napoli looked comfortable taking grounders, but a few of his throws to first base were wild.
Farrell was disappointed that Napoli was not one of the three finalists for the Gold Glove at first base in the American League. Chris Davis (Orioles), Eric Hosmer (Royals), and James Loney (Rays) were the choices.
“He’s done an outstanding job there,” Farrell said. “Always going to feel that way about your own guy because you see the amount of work that they put in and all that he’s done.”
Napoli graded out as the best first baseman in the league based on advanced statistics. But statistics count for only 25 percent of the award. The voting done by coaches and managers largely determines the award.
“I would venture to say that in the minds of some, if not many, that Mike is still viewed as a catcher who’s playing first base,” Farrell said. “And how much of it is swayed by offensive production, where Davis takes a lot of votes away from that position?”
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, and right fielder Shane Victorino are finalists at their positions.
Ross is ready
Backup catcher David Ross started four of the first 12 postseason games, a higher percentage than the regular season. Farrell suggested that Ross would be getting more starts in the Series.
“Yes, that’s been thought of,” Farrell said. “If there needs to be a change or there’s a view that a change should be made, that’s something we’ll consider.”
Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia had two defensive mistakes in the seventh inning of Game 2 when the Cardinals scored three runs to take the lead in a game they eventually won. He couldn’t get the ball out of his glove when St. Louis executed a double steal. He also dropped a ball on a throw from the outfield and was charged with an error.
Saltalamacchia was 0 for 3 Saturday, dropping him to 6 for 32 in the postseason. Ross is 4 for 13.
“We need to get Salty going and David Ross has being swinging the bat pretty darn good,” Farrell said.
Not much action
Saturday was only the 13th game the Red Sox have played in the last 27 days. The pace has changed considerably from the regular season.
“It’s kind of strange in that way,” left fielder Daniel Nava said. “You’re used to playing every day and now we get a lot of days off. You have to stay sharp on your own a little.”
Farrell feels the schedule has hurt some of the hitters.
“Maybe it’s taken some of those guys that are more rhythm oriented at the plate to kind of find their stride. Mike Napoli being one of them,” he said.
“If it takes another game or two because of the off-days without the daily repetition of at-bats, we work within the schedule of what it is, and try to set up things accordingly.”
Gang’s all here
The Red Sox flew out a planeload of front office employees for the games here . . . LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune was elected the president of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He is the first black reporter to be elected president and succeeds Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, the first woman to lead the group.Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.