BOSTON (AP) — Clay Buchholz is hoping to pitch again this season, and Boston’s team doctor says there is a chance the right-hander could return.

Buchholz visited Dr. Robert Watkins on Monday in Los Angeles, and he confirmed the diagnosis of a stress fracture in his lower back. Watkins also left open the possibility of coming back this season, providing some peace of mind for Buchholz.

“All along they knew something was there,” Buchholz said before the Red Sox hosted the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night. “Yeah, it’s good to go to a guy and have him be so forward with it and say that it’s not a career-threatening thing and it’s not even a season-ending thing for me.

“At least I know there’s something there and I’m not just a big wuss.”

Red Sox Medical Director Tom Gill said Buchholz, whose latest problem arose the day after he threw in the bullpen July 25, has a stress fracture, which was suffered on top of a previous stress reaction in a different area, in his spine. He said the new injury is stable and Buchholz has responded to treatment.

Gill said it’s possible Buchholz could return to the rotation this season, but the starter won’t be cleared to even throw again until he completes a structured rehabilitation program.

“The question is, how much time does Clay then need to get major league ready?” Gill said, worrying about a place for a rehab start. “You have to remember (Triple-A) Pawtucket, their season will be over before the postseason so that’s going to be kind of an internal baseball decision and working with Clay and how much time he needs to get back.

“Once he’s medically cleared, he’s going to have to get baseball cleared.”

Buchholz, a 17-game winner last season, is 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 14 starts this year, and Boston began the day with a one-game lead in the AL East.

Buchholz, who was placed on the disabled on June 19, now begins a five-step program in what he said was a six-week process that would bring him back in September.

The uncertainty surrounding Buchholz played a key role in the Red Sox trading for left-hander Erik Bedard, who reported to his new team on Tuesday.

“This is a great opportunity, when I jump from last place to first place in a heartbeat,” Bedard said. “It’s fun. I’m just going to come here and do the best I can — try to win ballgames and help the team win.”

Bedard was acquired from the Seattle Mariners on Sunday in a three-team deal. He is 4-7 with a 3.45 ERA in 16 starts in 2011.

The Red Sox were close to obtaining Rich Harden from Oakland but backed out because of his medical report, then dealt for Bedard, who now gets a shot at his first trip to the postseason.

“It means the world,” he said, adding he has always loved playing in Fenway Park. “You play this game to be in the playoffs and be in the World Series and win the World Series. It’s a great opportunity and I’ll do the best I can.”

Bedard called the Red Sox “a great team,” adding “they have great guys here and we’re going to get far.”

Bedard just came off the DL on Friday after being sidelined with a sprained left knee. He recorded four outs and threw 57 pitches in a loss to Tampa Bay that night.

The plan is for him to throw 75 to 80 pitches in his first Red Sox start, then build up his arm strength from there.

The Red Sox optioned utilityman Drew Sutton to Pawtucket to add Bedard to the roster.

 

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