TORONTO -- Clay Buchholz continues to develop cautious optimism as he goes through his throwing program. For the second straight day, the righty played catch at Rogers Centre, throwing 50 pitches at 90 feet.
"Effort level was a little bit higher today. It was good to test it out. Everything felt good, though," said Buchholz, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his lower back and hasn't pitched since June 16.
If things keep progressing, Buchholz hopes the team will give him clearance next week at Fenway to take the most pivotal test to date: throwing off a mound.
"If everything goes right -- and I think I'm doing two days on, one day off -- if there's enough days, that's what we're going to do hopefully for sure while we're home, I'll be able to put some spikes on and get off a mound and see how it feels," Buchholz said.
Once Buchholz throws off the mound, he will likely know just how far he's come in his recovery.
At first, he said, his intensity will be lighter off the mound than it's been during his sessions of catch.
"I don't want to rush back as far as throwing off a mound -- just the slope and gravity and everything," Buchholz said. "I'll try to throw light off the mound. It definitely won't be as many throws as I'm throwing right now."
Given the calendar, it still looks as if Buchholz's best chance of pitching this season would come if the Red Sox got to at least the American League Championship Series. That said, he hasn't ruled out anything.
"If I was to go out and throw in three days and it doesn't feel quite right, we'd probably take a step back," Buchholz said. "There's definitely no timeline. If everything goes right and I'm able to not have any setbacks and get off a mound and start working my way back up, I'm not sure the end of the season is going to be the right number. If we do what we want to do in the postseason, get there and play well, that's what I'm really hoping for."
While there would be less progression for Buchholz to return as a reliever, he said his preference is still to start.
"That depends on how many bullpens I get to throw, how many times I get to get up and face hitters, whether they want to send me to Florida," Buchholz said. "That's the million dollar question, I guess. I don't know. I'd like to be [a starter]. That's what I've prepared my whole career for, to be able to pitch in the postseason, start games and help this team win. If me going out there and not being ready to do it is not helping the team, I don't want to do it. I want to do it to help this team win."
Beckett has sprained ankle, will miss next start
TORONTO -- It appears that the right ankle injury right-hander Josh Beckett suffered on Monday is just a sprain, giving the team and its rabid fan base a sense of relief.
Beckett flew back to Boston on Tuesday and was examined by the team's foot specialist, Dr. George Theodore of Massachusetts General Hospital.
Red Sox medical director Dr. Tom Gill issued a statement that the club released during the first inning of Tuesday night's 14-0 win over the Blue Jays.
"Josh was evaluated today at the Massachusetts General Hospital by the Red Sox medical staff, including team foot and ankle specialist, Dr. George Theodore," Gill said. "Josh experienced pain in his ankle while pitching last night. His examination was consistent with an ankle sprain. An MRI was performed that confirmed no other injury to his ankle tendons, or his Achilles tendon. We will re-evaluate his symptoms and availability later this week."
Beckett will miss his scheduled start on Sunday against the Rays.
Beyond that, the Red Sox will just wait and see how the righty responds.
"I don't know that we really need to speculate," said manager Terry Francona. "We just need to get him [healthy]. When things like that happen, let's let this thing settle down. Let's let the medical staff work and we'll get him back whenever he's supposed to be."
Missing a start or two would be a small price to pay for Beckett and the Red Sox, considering what the All-Star righty means to the team down the stretch. If there had been ligament damage, Beckett could have been sidelined for weeks.
The medical reports came back about as positive as they could have.
"I'd say in general, yeah," Francona said. "You saw the statement. It's consistent with a sprain and there's nothing else going on, so I would say, yeah."
This weekend against the Rays, the Sox will pitch John Lackey on Friday, followed by September callup Kyle Weiland on Saturday and then Jon Lester in the road trip finale Sunday afternoon.
Weiland made starts for the Red Sox on July 10 and 19 -- both against the Orioles -- going 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA.
"It's a great opportunity and it's nice they chose me to take on that game," Weiland said. "I've just got to stay within myself and look back and learn from the last couple of starts and understand that the same pitches that get guys out in Triple-A get guys out here. Try not to do too much and stay within myself. Hopefully I got some things out of the way early on. It's just a learning process. I'm looking forward to it."
Beckett suffered the injury in the fourth inning of Monday's game after pitching 3 2/3 scoreless innings. A fall in the bullpen during warmups -- when Beckett was simply trying to change his shirt -- may or may not have led to the ankle sprain.
For the season, Beckett is 12-5 with a 2.49 ERA in 27 starts.