TORONTO — Clay Buchholz threw 50 pitches over three simulated innings in the bullpen Wednesday at the Rogers Centre. He called it the “best day so far” in his comeback from a lingering shoulder injury.
Buchholz, who has been on the disabled list since June 9, threw all his pitches and felt no discomfort in his shoulder.
“It’s the best I’ve felt as far as intensity and everything. It felt like a pretty standard bullpen for me,” he said.
Buchholz, who doesn’t throw at game speed in the bullpen, estimated he was at 80-85 percent effort for the final 10-15 pitches.
“No increase in stiffness of any kind,” said manager John Farrell. “He got loose as he began the next simulated inning. Overall a good day.”
The next step for Buchholz will come Saturday when he throws three more simulated innings. From there he would pitch a simulated game and face teammates.
Because he hasn’t pitched in so long, Buchholz would want some kind of simulated game before starting a minor league rehabilitation assignment.
“I’d rather have some guys stand in,” he said. “It’s been a while. Instead of just going out and throwing in a minor league game, it would be better for me to see a hitter and throw more pitches before.”
At the pace he is on, Buchholz could return to the rotation on or about Sept. 1. The Sox, burned before, are being careful not to outline any expectations.
“The most important thing is he feels good and it’s another positive step,” Farrell said.
The Red Sox have 40 games remaining, four fewer than the Rays and two fewer than the Tigers and Orioles. The Sox will have four days off over the final 21 days of the season.
Those extra days off could be an advantage for the Sox. The gaps in the schedule will allow Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves to line up the rotation in different ways.
“We’ll look to maximize as best we can,” Farrell said. “If that means going to a four-man rotation at a certain point, that’s one possibility. We’ll take a look at all those situations.”
That could mean extra rest for the starters who have worked the most or putting certain pitchers against teams they have had success against.
The days off also could allow Farrell to squeeze a few extra outings out of relievers Koji Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Craig Breslow.
“We know it exists. We know it’s coming up,” Farrell said. “But I’ll be honest with you: I’ve looked at it at a glance but haven’t really started to put pen to paper with any changes. That’s one of the beauties of this team, we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves.”
Ross getting ready
David Ross caught seven innings for Triple A Pawtucket Wednesday. He was 0 for 2 with a walk. Ross will be off Thursday, then is scheduled to catch back-to-back full games Friday and Saturday. From there he would be activated Monday in San Francisco. Ross is on the disabled list recovering from a concussion . . . Jonny Gomes started in left field against righthander Esmil Rogers and went 1 for 4 in the Sox’ 4-3 loss in 10 innings. Farrell suggested he would do that more often. Gomes entered Wednesday night’s game hitting .278 with a .953 OPS since July 1. He also has hit righthanders better than lefties over the course of the season. “The competitiveness to all his at-bats, whether it’s righthanded or lefthanded, I don’t see a whole lot of difference between the two,” Farrell said. “He brings another element of energy to our team. With him in the lineup we project a different feel on the field and we want that in there.” . . . Toronto traded light-hitting infielder Emilio Bonifacio to Kansas City for future considerations. The Jays also placed outfielder Colby Rasmus [strained left oblique] on the disabled list. Outfielder Kevin Pillar and infielder Munenori Kawasaki were called up from Triple A Buffalo. Pillar started in left and Kawasaki at second base.
The Sox will start Felix Doubront, John Lackey, and Ryan Dempster against the Yankees this weekend. The Yankees are expected to start Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, and CC Sabathia . . . Brayan Villarreal, the hard-throwing righthander obtained from Detroit July 30, pitched his first game for Pawtucket. He allowed one hit with one walk and one strikeout in one inning. Villarreal is on the 40-man roster and could be called up when rosters expand in September. Villarreal, who was out with a thumb injury, pitched poorly in seven appearances for the Tigers this season. But he was one of Detroit’s better relievers in 2012. “That’s a power arm we could add to this bullpen,” Farrell said. “We’ll certainly take a look at everybody who could help us in September.” . . . The Sox are the only team in the AL with three players — Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, and Dustin Pedroia — having at least 15 stolen bases . . . Dempster, who threw seven innings Tuesday, was full of energy before the game. He tossed a football around with Lackey and then stepped in and took a few grounders at third base when the coaches were working with Brandon Snyder. Lackey, by the way, was a high school quarterback in Texas and throws a nice, tight spiral.