The Red Sox are well on their way to playing October baseball, up 7.5 games on the Rays in the AL East.
This comfortable lead will allow Boston to get healthy before the postseason at their own pace. Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury is expected to return to the team before the end of the regular season, though Red Sox fans are well aware that timetables on any injuries (see Clay Buchholz), are case sensitive. Ellsbury has a "tiny" compression fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot, according to ESPN, but manager John Farrell expects his leadoff hitter to be ready to go by the time postseason play begins.
Speaking of Buchholz, the Sox' starter hasn't started a game since June 8 and many were beginning to wonder if he would return to the mound at all in 2013. But the righty will be on the mound for Boston Tuesday night against Tampa Bay (7 p.m., NESN) after throwing a 30-pitch bullpen session Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Buchholz started the year on fire with a 9-0 record and a 1.71 ERA. Remarkably, the Red Sox have continued winning without the man they called their ace for the first two months of the season.
It will be interesting to see where Buchholz lands in a potential Sox playoff rotation. Jon Lester has certainly made his case as the No. 1 starter in the past few weeks while John Lackey, Felix Doubront and Jake Peavy have also pitched well. Most teams typically use three starters in postseason runs so several of the Sox starters will be prime options out of the 'pen. It just remains to be seen as to who will get the starting nods.
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With Buchholz back, the Red Sox plan to skip Doubront in the rotation this week to allow him to get rest. They plan to do the same with Lester, Lackey and Peavy in the next few weeks.