BOSTON -- By Clay Buchholz's estimation, he should be able to throw at 100 percent after two more side sessions.
Returning from a back injury, the right-hander threw 30 pitches on Saturday afternoon with a batter standing in at Fenway Park, and it remains possible Buchholz could return before the regular season ends.
"I felt good today: 30 pitches from 60 feet. Threw everything," Buchholz said. "Had Conor Jackson standing in as a hitter, gave a little bit more feel to it. Had no issues with the back today; it felt fine. If anything, the arm strength's not quite there with the four-seamer. But there are no issues as far as the back goes."
Said Jackson: "He looked good. He had life on his fastball, a good changeup, a good curveball. To me, he looked like he was letting go, so if if he was holding back, that's a good thing."
Buchholz estimated he was throwing at 75 to 80 percent, and said the afternoon start time -- the Rays and Red Sox began play at 4:10 p.m. ET -- meant his session came a little earlier than it normally would for a night game, throwing him off slightly. But, he nonetheless felt strong.
The next step for Buchholz is more dependent on logistics than health, manager Terry Francona said. The team would like him to throw again on Monday, possibly a simulated game, but with the Red Sox playing the Orioles in a doubleheader that day, it may not be possible to schedule a throwing session.
"Can we get him to throw in between? Do we need to just maybe wait til Tuesday? We'll figure that out," Francona said. "And again, that's not because of Clay, it's the circumstances with the two games."
Francona didn't rule out a return for Buchholz before the regular season ends, and neither did the pitcher himself. But Buchholz isn't overly concerned about that -- he just wants to be back for October baseball. Three more sessions, it seems, and he could be close to where he needs to be.
"Depends on how many more [bullpen sessions] I get to throw. I'll probably throw three more," Buchholz said. "No pain added, there's a good chance I can be 100 percent by the third one."
Monday start for Bedard not ruled out
BOSTON -- Erik Bedard hasn't been ruled out as a potential starter for the first game of Monday's doubleheader against the Orioles at Fenway Park.
The left-hander threw 35 pitches in a side session Saturday afternoon, and said afterward he didn't feel any discomfort. He's been bothered by both his left knee and left lat.
"I'll have to see how it reacts," Bedard said when asked where he goes from here. "The next day is always the big key."
As for Monday's twin bill with the Orioles at Fenway, John Lackey is set as the nightcap's starter, but the Sox haven't made any commitments for the early game.
"I don't know. We'll see," manager Terry Francona said. "We got some moving parts obviously, want to see how [Bedard] comes through this [throwing session], and then we want to gauge where we think he is, and then we can make some decisions. We'll have something for you guys pretty soon. We got some either-ors, obviously."
Dealing with a plethora of other injuries, the Red Sox saw little improvement from Kevin Youkilis (hip) on Saturday, while Jed Lowrie (left shoulder) was faring "much better" Francona said.
Francona reflects on Papelbon's success
BOSTON -- Jonathan Papelbon's first save in nearly a month on Friday night also brought distinction.
With a strikeout of Evan Longoria, the closer preserved a 4-3 Red Sox win in a pennant race with the Rays and notched his 30th save. He is the only pitcher to reach the 30-save mark in his first six full Major League seasons.
Manager Terry Francona didn't know Papelbon had reached No. 30 until a reporter told him on Saturday, but he did reflect on how far the Sox closer has come.
"He's always been good, but he set the bar so high his first couple years, and then it wasn't quite the same," Francona said. "He came back this year with a vengeance. I mean he's been good, and he's been consistent, and he's worked hard. He's carefree, but he's a good kid. Everybody's been around him, he means well. When you give him the ball, he's got one thing, he wants to beat the other team."
Papelbon had last recorded a save on Aug. 18, and hadn't had a save opportunity since, a career-long 28-game drought. The Red Sox themselves hadn't gone 28 games without a save since 2004.
Papelbon made six appearances with a no-decision in the time leading up to Friday, and the three most recent outings came in losses.
No matter the situation, Palebon's been dominant: the 22-innings scoreless streak he entered Saturday with was the Major League's longest active streak and matched his career-best run from 2006.
Since the middle of May, Papelbon has converted his last 25 save chances, the longest such stretch of his career and the second longest in the American League this season.
Jenks focused on coming back strong in 2012
BOSTON -- Had Bobby Jenks' rehab assignment in Salem during late August gone smoothly, his back healing enough to allow him to pitch without pain, he might never have discovered the blood clot that's been sitting in his lung.
But instead, Jenks' back continued to bother him, forcing his stint on the disabled list to continue and team doctors to run a whole "ringer" of tests, as he described it on Saturday afternoon.
The accidental finding -- a small clot in his lung that is being treated with blood-thinning medication -- has left Jenks feeling like a very lucky man.
"Obviously, I was going through a lot this year, mentally," he said. "A lot of struggles just trying to stay positive for so long. I've just come to the point where, being a spiritual person and being Christian, I found myself being very blessed that things happen for a reason. I was supposed to have these back problems because of this clot that was supposed to be found."
Surgery to shave down his spine and reduce irritation on the nerves in his back has been delayed. Jenks said the surgery, while rare to be done on pitchers, is a simple one -- to take about 60 to 90 minutes -- and doctors are talking weeks of recovery time as opposed to months.
He'll stick around in Boston for the time being though, disappointed that he can't be pitching for his new ballclub in the middle of a playoff race, especially as he is in the first part of a two-year, $12 million contract he signed last offseason.
"The unfortunate part is it happened to happen here, in my first year here," he said. "But looking at it, [the back injury] would have happened regardless of where I was. It had just been built up for so many years now."
Jenks' stat line in his shortened season ends with a 2-2 record, 6.32 ERA and 17 strikeouts to 13 walks in 15 2/3 innings. Opponents hit .328, more than 60 points higher than his previous career-worst mark of .260.
But he said he was starting to feel better before the blood clot was discovered, putting together solid sessions in the weight room as he rebuilt strength. But for now, the plan is just to get healthy, and he remains optimistic that he'll be ready to go in Fort Myers, Fla., when Spring Training begins next year.
"Obviously, it's very disappointing for me," he said. "I came here with a lot of expectations on myself, and a lot of things I wanted to do for myself and the team this year.
"It's just a lot of bad luck this year, and one of those things I have to put aside, as hard as it's going to be sitting here during the playoffs. But [the goal is] coming back next year trying to be the best I can, and even stronger."
Sox honor Minor Leaguers at Fenway
BOSTON -- Some of the Red Sox's best youngsters got a chance to see Fenway Park on Saturday in the midst of a September playoff race.
The organization honored its 2011 Minor League award winners with a pregame ceremony on the field, complete with general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona.
Right-hander Alex Wilson, 24, was named the Pitcher of the Year after going 10-4 with a 3.11 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 25 starts between Triple-A Pawtucket and Double-A Portland. Boston drafted him in the second round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
The Player of the Year honors were shared between Class A outfielder Bryce Brentz and catcher Ryan Lavarnway, the latter currently a big leaguer.
A 23-year-old who led all Sox Minor Leaguers in average (.306) and RBIs (94) and finished second in home runs (30), Brentz was Boston's second pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, at No. 36 overall, and split time between Class A Greenville and Salem.
Lavarnway hit .290 with 32 homers between Pawtucket and Portland.
One award, the Lou Gorman Award, was given for the first time on Saturday, and left-hander Tommy Hottovy was its first recipient. It honors the Sox Minor Leaguer who has demonstrated dedication and perseverance in overcoming obstacles while working his way to the Majors.
A 2004 Draft pick, Hottovy, whose son Cameron was born during the All-Star break, at last made his Major League debut this year.
"It's obviously an honor, to be in this organization as long as I've been, through the ups and downs and everything," said Hottovy, who plans to play winter ball in the Dominican Republic. "Obviously, I never got to meet Lou, but everything I've heard from him, the people he's been with and the lives he influenced, it's a pretty amazing award. It's obviously an honor, just kind of adds to that little bit what I've gone through in eight years. Just all that time, dedication, obviously a great organization and I'm proud to be a part of it."
Greenville catcher Christian Vazquez was named the Defensive Player of the Year after making just nine errors in 904 chances and throwing out 33 percent of would-be basestealers. He's 21 years old and was drafted in the ninth round in 2008.
Other winners included Greenville center fielder Felix Sanchez (Base Runner of the Year), left-hander Pedro Reyes (Latin Program Pitcher of the Year) and outfielder Ynoel Aguero (Latin Program Player of the Year).
Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @EvanDrellich. Jason Mastrodonato is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.