Must C Clutch: Middlebrooks delivers in the ninth

BOSTON -- John Farrell won't put a timetable on Will Middlebrooks' return to the big leagues, but Jose Iglesias' offensive surge could be complicating matters.

Middlebrooks, who is playing for Triple-A Pawtucket for the time being as part of a rehab assignment, is physically healthy enough to play, but Farrell wants him to get "back into the flow" before rejoining the Red Sox.

The third baseman, who was sidelined with back problems, went 0-for-3 in Pawtucket on Saturday, but had a .333 average with two home runs and six RBIs in his first four games in Triple-A.

"Another game last night where there was more timing, good swings, but yet not the results that he's had," Farrell said. "I want to go back to when we outlined this -- this wasn't a matter of a batting average to get him back here. It was a matter of getting back into the flow of a game and gaining some momentum. We're hopeful to see him soon."

Iglesias, who's been the primary replacement at third, has made the most of the absence. He had two more hits on Saturday to raise his average .443 on the year in 70 at-bats entering play Sunday.

When Middlebrooks is called up, the Red Sox will have to make a roster move. The decision will likely come down to either demoting Iglesias or utility man Pedro Ciriaco, who has not played much recently and is out of options.

Farrell insists Iglesias' hot hitting has no bearing on when Middlebrooks is called up, however.

"Will's our third baseman," he said. "We've said that. But yet at the same time, Jose is doing an excellent job, and once Will's returned and the roster decision is made, if the scenario is that Jose is our utility guy, we've got to be sure that we rotate him through there to keep him in the mix."

That being said, if Iglesias is still on the roster when Middlebrooks returns, Farrell isn't afraid to ride the hot bat even if that means giving Iglesias some starts at third.

"We have to stay flexible," Farrell said. "That's what internal competition is about. It drives everyone to be better. You don't want to stunt that. You don't want to take away from that or get in the way of it."

Buchholz day to day with neck tightness

LAA@BOS: Buchholz holds Angels to two for ninth win

BOSTON -- Clay Buchholz is day to day after neck tightness forced him to exit his Saturday start with two outs in the top of the seventh inning.

Red Sox manager John Farrell said Buchholz was examined by team doctors Sunday and it's unclear if his next start is in jeopardy.

"Right now he's day to day, and whether his next start is in question, we'll probably have a better read on that once we get through the Tampa series," Farrell said Sunday.

The injury occurred in the sixth inning Saturday against the Angels when Howie Kendrick hit a line drive that knocked Buchholz's glove right off his hand. Buchholz left his glove on the ground and chased down the ball behind the mound. His off-balance throw to first was too late to get Kendrick.

"A little nagging there for a couple of innings," said Buchholz on Saturday night. "It was right after that ball that hit off my glove. When I threw it to first base, that's when it sort of tightened up a little bit. I figured that when I got the double-play ball and didn't turn it [in the seventh], I figured that was enough. I didn't want to push my luck."

Buchholz missed a start in late May due to irritation in his AC joint, which is located near the collarbone.

"It's close to that AC joint, so I can't say that they're not interrelated at some point, but it was more the result of that awkward throw that started to trigger it, and the cramping that followed," Farrell said.

Though he left the game in the seventh, Buchholz still picked up the win to move to 9-0 on the year. In 6 2/3 innings, he surrendered two runs and six hits while striking out four and walking one. His ERA is an MLB-best 1.71.

Victorino not in lineup as part of scheduled day off

LAA@BOS: Victorino makes a great snag in fourth

BOSTON -- One day after returning from the disabled list, Shane Victorino was not in the Red Sox starting lineup Sunday.

Manager John Farrell said it was a scheduled day off and part of the plan to ease Victorino back into playing on a daily basis.

"We'll look to pick some spots for him," Farrell said. "That might be two [days] on, one off, that type of scenario. We're not stuck to that, either. Most of this is going to depend on how Shane responds. But today was a planned off-day from the get-go."

It didn't take long for Victorino to test the limits of his healing left hamstring, which held him out of action dating back to May 20.

In the first inning Saturday, Victorino scored from first base on a double by Dustin Pedroia and capped off the play with a head-first dive into home.

He was slow to get up, but remained in the game.

"We got a quick test right out of the gate in the first inning, obviously, going first to home on that double," Victorino said Saturday. "You know, as I said, I felt it a little bit there, but maybe it's just me consciously finally getting the chance to go first to home and really accelerating, but it didn't really hamper me the rest of the game. I felt it a little bit here and there but, for the most part, it felt pretty good. I lasted nine and we'll go from there."

The incident was enough to worry his manager, but aggressiveness is part of Victorino's game and Farrell won't ask him to change it.

"We're never going to ask a player to be someone who he's not," Farrell said. "That means to play -- we ask them to be smart about it, but we know that instincts and characteristics are going to kick in. He was activated all of an hour, and he's going first to home, a piece of sod gives way, it grabs the hamstring, and he's lying at home plate. We thought, one inning in, this has the potential of not being too good. Fortunately, he came out of it OK."

Victorino was 1-for-5 in the game with a run. He entered play Sunday batting .280 on the year.