MRI shows no damage to Clay Buchholz's ulnar collateral ligament

ByGordon Edes ESPN logo
Saturday, July 11, 2015

BOSTON -- The Red Sox have placed right-hander Clay Buchholz on the 15-day disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his forearm and have promoted rookie left-hander Brian Johnson from Triple-A Pawtucket to take his place on the roster.

Johnson, who was scheduled to start for Pawtucket on Saturday night, will be available for use out of the bullpen this weekend against the New York Yankees, manager John Farrell said. He then will be a candidate for the rotation coming out of the All-Star break.

The Red Sox have been using just four starters in the last week, so all signs point to Johnson joining the rotation when they resume play in Anaheim on Friday.

Johnson, 24, is a former first-round draft choice (2012) out of the University of Florida who was 8-6 with a 2.73 ERA in 16 starts for Pawtucket. Not including a start he had to abandon after just five pitches because of food poisoning, Johnson has held the opposition to two runs or fewer in seven of his last nine starts.

Buchholz said imaging exams taken Friday night showed no damage to his ulnar collateral ligament, which when torn often requires Tommy John ligament reconstruction surgery.

"It's probably more frustrating than a relief," Buchholz said. "At least it's not going to be a long stay as far as the DL goes."

That remains to be seen.

"It depends upon the extent of the initial injury and how long the shutdown period might take," Farrell said. "[The shutdown time] will mirror the length of time needed to build him back up."

A recent example of a pitcher with a strained flexor muscle and an intact UCL was Washington Nationals right-hander Doug Fister, who took just over a month to return to the rotation.

Farrell, a former pitcher, has had extensive experience with elbow injuries. He twice underwent Tommy John surgery.

"To me, it sounds like this has been caught early on," Farrell said. "The changes shown [in the imaging] are only the flexor muscle, not the ligament.

"He was certainly relieved, but we'll still take the necessary steps to calm this down and rebuild it."

Buchholz said he first noticed discomfort in his elbow while pitching to Brett Gardner in the third inning. He tried to throw Gardner an elevated fastball but instead the pitch was down. Gardner took it for a called third strike. Buchholz subsequently faced two more batters in the inning, and pitched to four batters in the fourth before calling catcher Sandy Leon to the mound after an 0-and-1 pitch to Stephen Drew.

"I probably shouldn't have started the inning," Buchholz said. "It's definitely the most my elbow has ever bothered me in a game situation."

Buchholz said he has not yet decided whether to seek a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews, who in 2013 had weighed in when he has having shoulder problems.

This is the fifth straight season Buchholz has gone on the DL, the injury coming at a time when he had been 5-2 with a 1.99 ERA in his previous 10 starts.

"You always think the worst right when it happens," Buchholz said, "but it wasn't one pitch, it wasn't a pop. That sort of makes you feel better, but until you get the images you don't know. It's not necessarily a good thing, but it's definitely the best thing."