SEATTLE -- Boston catcher Victor Martinez, who fractured his left thumb on June 27, could clear a significant hurdle before Saturday's game in Seattle when he catches Clay Buchholz's side session.

Martinez felt pretty well catching Tim Wakefield's knuckleball before Thursday's game, but Buchholz's increased velocity will be a better test for his thumb.

If the session with Buchholz goes well, Martinez's return could be imminent, perhaps as soon as the three-game series in Anaheim that starts Monday night.

"I mean, if I feel like I felt yesterday with Buchholz, I'm just days away," Martinez said. "We'll see what happens."

The Red Sox have been forced to play with both of their regular catchers on the 15-day disabled list. Jason Varitek has a fractured right foot and is still on crutches. The return of Martinez would give the Sox a big jolt in the middle of the lineup.

Bowden optioned back to Triple-A

SEATTLE -- With Josh Beckett returning to the mound Friday night against the Mariners, the Red Sox were left with a roster crunch that forced them to option righty Michael Bowden back to Triple-A Pawtucket just five days after recalling him.

Though Bowden has had several short-term visits to the roster in the past, the Sox were hoping he would be able to get an extended look this time around.

"I'm obviously disappointed, but I had a feeling that this was going to happen," said Bowden. "But I also have a feeling that I'll be back sooner rather than later."

At least for now, Bowden will continue his recent transition to reliever at Triple-A.

"We didn't want to send him back," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "We called him up, we didn't want to send him back. We're not allowed to play with 26 players, so we'll hopefully this will keep him on somewhat of a schedule.

"You can see by the way we used him, we certainly weren't afraid to use him. His breaking ball is better. He's always been a mature kid, but as far as innings pitched, he looks like he's ready to start helping us, which is good."

Bowden pitched three times during his short stint with the Sox, giving up three hits and no earned runs over 2 1/3 innings, though he did give up a walk-off single on Tuesday night in Oakland.

"Every time out there, I got a little more comfortable, a little more relaxed," Bowden said. "I think it's just about getting more repetitions, more appearances, so I can really feel 100 percent comfortable out there and do my job. I think I'll be successful if I can keep doing what I've been doing. I need to just continue to do that down there, and I'll get another opportunity."

Pedroia walking better, getting antsy

SEATTLE -- Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with his fractured left foot, and perhaps that is why time is starting to go slower for him.

"It's getting tough because I'm walking better," said Pedroia. "I feel normal walking. I just can't push it right now until it's really healed. I've just got to listen to what they say and hope we win. That's it. I'll find out more when I see the doctor in a couple of days [in Anaheim]. I think that'll tell me a lot more, and I'm going back to get another CT scan next Friday to see if there's more healing."

If Pedroia gets the all clear to remove his walking boot after that CT scan on Friday, his return to the lineup could be quick after that. He has little to no interest in going on a Minor League rehab assignment. A fierce competitor, Pedroia wants to do what he can to help Boston's postseason push. He last played on June 25.

"I don't know," Pedroia said about a rehab assignment. "I'll talk to [general manager] Theo [Epstein] and [manager Terry Francona], and everybody, but it depends how we're doing as a team. We're trying to get everybody back as fast as possible, and I think the Red Sox need us more than the PawSox do."

Worth noting

Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield's transition to the bullpen started on Friday. Though he threw an extended side session on Thursday, Wakefield assured the Red Sox he would be ready to go in Friday's game. ... After going 1-for-5 in the first game of his rehab assignment on Thursday night, Mike Lowell got a scheduled day off on Friday. He will play third base for Triple-A Pawtucket at Columbus on Saturday. Overall, Lowell is likely to play six games over an eight-day span and then be activated. ... Rain in Fort Myers, Fla., forced Jacoby Ellsbury to hit indoors on Friday. The speedy center fielder should start a Minor League rehab assignment in a few days. ... The Red Sox foundation and Funai jointly announced the third year of the Red Sox U.S.-Japan Youth Baseball exchange. The program allows kids from Japan and the U.S. to visit each other's homelands and explore their customs and culture through baseball.