DETROIT -- When Clay Buchholz takes the mound on Sunday afternoon against the Tigers, it will truly signify that his comeback from a stress fracture in his back is complete.

The righty's season ended last June 16, and the Red Sox suffered greatly from his absence.

If Spring Training showed him anything, it's that his back is fine and he can just concentrate on pitching.

"It's more of a relaxed state of mind knowing that everything's fine and not having to worry about anything other than going out there and executing pitches and trying to help put this team in a position to win," Buchholz said.

Manager Bobby Valentine was pleased with what he saw from Buchholz during Spring Training.

"His pitches were all working for him," Valentine said. "He didn't necessarily have the full plate of competition under his belt, but he threw the way he wanted to."

Could this be the year that Buchholz hits the 200-inning plateau for the first time in his career?

"I feel like I put myself in a good position to reach that point," Buchholz said. "That's my goal at the beginning of every spring and at the end of every season, is to go out and make your 33 or 34 starts in a season and get to that 200-inning plateau."

Crawford closing in on games in Florida

DETROIT -- Left fielder Carl Crawford is making enough progress with the rehab of his surgically repaired left wrist that he should be able to play in some extended spring games in Florida within the week.

"It's imminent, it's coming very soon," said manager Bobby Valentine. "The way it seems right now, he's feeling very good."

In fact, the Red Sox offered Crawford a chance to take part in the home opener festivities at Fenway on April 13, but he would rather stay focused on his rehab.

Crawford will start his rehab as a designated hitter before progressing to defense and running the bases.

Two pitchers are also on the mend and should be able to help the Red Sox before long. Lefties Rich Hill and Andrew Miller were both set to pitch for Class A Greenville on Saturday night.

Valentine will try to keep bench involved

DETROIT -- One hallmark of teams managed by Bobby Valentine is that they've had key contributors off the bench.

Valentine hopes that is again the case in his first season with the Red Sox, as he opens with a three-man bench of Nick Punto, Darnell McDonald and Kelly Shoppach.

"I like to get participation, yeah," Valentine said. "This is a smaller bench than I'm used to. We're trying to protect against everything possible."

On Opening Day, Darnell McDonald came off the bench and contributed to the comeback in the top of the ninth inning, stealing second and scoring on Ryan Sweeney's game-trying triple.

"Darnell and I have had a lot of talks about him being the kind of player he can be any time we need him to be it," said Valentine. "He says he's always ready. He was ready physically from about the seventh inning on to do just that, and he did it."

Shoppach, Boston's backup catcher, will see action mainly against lefties. His debut could be Wednesday in Toronto, when the Red Sox face Blue Jays southpaw Rocky Romero.

Punto will move all around the infield.