BOSTON -- It is always a little concerning when one of your projected top starters gives up five runs or more in his first five starts. But in the case of Clay Buchholz, both the Red Sox and the righty think that a resurgence will happen soon.
When manager Bobby Valentine met with Buchholz on Tuesday, the last thing he sensed was a pitcher who looked defeated.
"We just had a talk about what's going on, and it was the most relaxed that I've seen him all year," Valentine said.
Buchholz didn't pitch after June 16 of last season because of a stress fracture in his back. The problem could simply be that he's regaining his feel for pitching again.
"I know everyone wants to look at the numbers, and the numbers really aren't pretty except for the 3-1 [record] and a lot of innings have been pretty," Valentine said. "The idea that he can improve is absolutely paramount in all of our minds. He just left my office, where we talked about that. There's no doubt that he has plenty of room for improvement."
The back issue that wiped out most of his 2011 season is not an issue, Buchholz has said numerous times. He did battle a blister issue during Monday's start, but that's something he's dealt with the entire time he's been in the Major Leagues.
"He's had that all the time," said pitching coach Bob McClure. "It dries up pretty good. It doesn't tear. It's not something we should be alarmed about. There's quite a few pitchers who have that. It's nothing to be concerned about."
In fact, Valentine pointed out that the blister could actually be a good sign.
"That pops up often when he's throwing well, because that curveball, I'm sure it comes off the finger so hot," Valentine said. "He doctors it and pitches with it. He never complained about it and it was never an issue during the game. I'm bringing it up just because it popped up in the report after the game."
The Red Sox know it's vital they get Buchholz back on track.
"The pitches that he's featuring should be correlating to better numbers. That should correlate," Valentine said. "Those are pretty good pitches. Not a lot of the other arms in the league are featuring the pitches he's featuring. I can't go by what's happened in the past, because I really don't have that barometer."
With Youkilis ailing, Iglesias called up
BOSTON -- When highly touted Red Sox prospect Jose Iglesias bounded into the clubhouse about three hours before Tuesday night's game against the Oakland Athletics, it was clear that a roster move was in the works.
What is unclear is how long Iglesias will take up residence at Fenway Park. This could be a relatively short visit, depends on how well -- and how quickly -- third baseman Kevin Youkilis recovers from his ailing back.
To make room for Iglesias on the roster, the Red Sox optioned right-hander Junichi Tazawa to Triple-A Pawtucket.
With Youkilis unavailable for the third straight game, the Red Sox did not want to be left without a reserve infielder.
"With the playing conditions and with the roster situation, we didn't think it was fair for the team to play so short in the infield," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine. "We have a backup in case we need it."
Nick Punto again started in place of Youkilis at third.
The Red Sox will continue to monitor Youkilis in the short term before deciding if a DL stint is necessary.
"I can't tell," Valentine said. "I was with him today in the training room. There are times where it's pretty sore [with] different movements. He's doing everything he can in the training room. Yesterday it was during infield practice. The day before, it was during batting practice. He's doing everything he can. As far as other opinions or any of that stuff, I'm not sure where we are on it. It seems like he has a situation that we just have to get over."
If Youkilis did need to be shut down for a prolonged period, the Red Sox could start Iglesias at short and move Mike Aviles over to third. They could also send Iglesias back down and bring up another top prospect -- third baseman Will Middlebrooks.
Iglesias has been to Boston for temporary stints in the past. The expectation is that some day he will arrive for good as the team's everyday shortstop.
"It's a funny thing," Valentine said. "When you get to the big leagues, it's never ... it's not always how you plan for guys to be used. Sometimes guys get in, they never leave. Sometimes guys are planned to stay forever, and they're gone after two weeks. Let's say he's here and we'll use him. But it could be short."
Iglesias was in the running for Boston's starting shortstop position for most of Spring Training before losing the competition to Aviles.
Anderson optioned; more moves forthcoming
BOSTON -- Following Tuesday night's 5-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics, prospect Lars Anderson was optioned back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
However, the Red Sox won't make a corresponding roster move until Wednesday.
There are a few unknowns regarding the roster, which is why the team will wait.
Still unclear is what will happen to veteran right-hander Aaron Cook, who is in the process of letting the Red Sox know if he wants to exercise his Tuesday opt-out clause.
If the Red Sox are at risk of losing Cook, they might add him to the 25-man roster and put him in the bullpen.
Cook was solid in four starts at Triple-A Pawtucket, but Boston doesn't have any vacancies in the starting rotation.
Should Cook decide not to exercise his opt-out clause, he can go back to Pawtucket for one more month. The righty has a second opt-out clause on June 1.
One more thing clouding the roster is the uncertain status of third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who has missed the past three games with back stiffness.
"Again, he's doing everything he can do," said manager Bobby Valentine. "He's got a situation. I don't know how to address it, whether it goes away quickly or if he needs a lot of time for it to go away. I'm just trying to get the advice of those who are working on him."
To cover themselves for the short term, the Sox did call up shortstop Jose Iglesias prior to Tuesday's game, but by sending down Junichi Tazawa, they were left with an 11-man pitching staff. Typically, the Red Sox have a 12-man staff.
If Youkilis is going to be out for an extended period, the Red Sox could opt to call up top prospect Will Middlebrooks. The third baseman has had a red-hot start to the season.
Or they could move Mike Aviles over to third base and play Iglesias at short.
Anderson's latest stint with the Red Sox was uneventful. He was 1-for-8 in six games.
Papi not puffing his chest out after hot April
BOSTON -- After a torrid month that was in complete contrast to the miserable starts David Ortiz experienced in 2009 and '10, it was natural to wonder if this was the best April of Big Papi's career.
It all depends on how you look at it. If the barometer is batting average, it wasn't even close. Ortiz hit .405 last month, topping his previous high of .309 in 2001 by nearly 100 points.
However, Ortiz is more interested in production numbers, and this wasn't quite his best in that regard.
In 2006, Ortiz belted 10 homers, four more than this April. But his 20 RBIs from '06 were the same as this year. Ortiz's best April in the RBI department was '07, when he drove in 22.
If you want to go by OPS, the stat often used to determine best overall performance, Ortiz's 1.184 this April is a career high. There are only two other months -- '06 and '07 -- when Ortiz had an April OPS over 1.000.
Ortiz will leave those debates for others.
Much like Ortiz told people to stop panicking during those dreadful starts of 2009 and '10, he isn't about to puff his chest out over a big start this year.
"I always say it doesn't matter what you do in April, it matters what you do in September," Ortiz said. "I'm just going to keep on playing and try to keep winning."
Ortiz does enjoy showing people he can still produce at an elite level at the age of 36.
"Especially at my age, people are thinking the opposite, that you're getting older. Sometimes you can age like wine," Ortiz said. "I just thank God for keeping me healthy and giving me the opportunity to come back and perform and help the ballclub, one way or the other. It's not over. We still have five months."
With Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford both on the disabled list, Ortiz's hot start was well timed.
"He's been the most consistent and consistently powerful and dynamic member of our offense," said manager Bobby Valentine. "Very, very consistent."