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Game 4 starter Clay Buchholz's shoulder tightness a concern for Red Sox

Clay Buchholz of the Boston Red Sox looks

Clay Buchholz of the Boston Red Sox looks on against the Detroit Tigers during Game 2 of the American League Championship Series at Fenway Park. (Oct. 13, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty Images

ST. LOUIS -- Sending out a pitcher with an acknowledged shoulder problem isn't an ideal circumstance for a World Series team, but that's where the Red Sox find themselves with their Game 4 starter, Clay Buchholz.

Boston manager John Farrell acknowledged that the righthander will be on a short leash but said that doesn't necessarily spell doom.

"We go into tomorrow thinking that he's going to give us what he's been in the postseason," Farrell said Saturday before Game 3. "That might be a little bit shorter of an outing than maybe we've seen back in April and May. But he's also been very effective. And we're fully anticipating that to be the case tomorrow."

Farrell's evaluation is a bit generous.

Buchholz, who says he's been dealing with shoulder tightness since his start in ALCS Game 6 against the Tigers, enters Sunday night 0-0 with a 5.40 ERA in three starts this postseason.

Two of those starts have been OK, one awful. But in each of them, fatigue was an issue as the game went on.

Buchholz, who missed nearly three months of the regular season with a shoulder injury before returning in September, was effective in Game 6 against the Tigers but quickly tired while allowing four hits and two runs in five innings.

Buchholz allowed three runs and seven hits in six innings in ALDS Game 3 against the Rays and five runs and eight hits in 52/3 innings in ALCS Game 2.

He said he is not concerned about doing any long-term damage to his shoulder by pitching.

"I don't think there is any risk there," said Buchholz, 29, who went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA this season and will be opposed by Cardinals righthander Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97) in Game 4. "My one thing that I have is to go and compete. Go out there for as long as John wants to leave me out there and give the team a chance to win to the best of my ability.

"Obviously, given the couple of days that I've been out so far, [I'm] not a hundred percent. But I've said it a couple of times this year: I don't think anybody, especially at this time of the season, is a hundred percent."

Buchholz played long-toss up to 100 feet during his team's workout Friday and threw a light bullpen session Saturday, the first time he had been on a mound since Game 6 against Detroit.

Speaking Friday, catcher David Ross didn't paint an overly optimistic picture.

"We're going to do the best we can with what we've got,'' Ross said, according to the Providence Journal. "It's just next man up, try to do the best we can. Obviously, we want Clay healthy, but we've got to look out for what's best for the team and for Clay also . . . This game doesn't wait around for anybody, so we've got to do the best we can with the guys we've got healthy. Hopefully Clay gets healthy as soon as he can.''

All managers and pitching coaches talk to pitchers between innings as games wear on, asking them how they're feeling, almost always referencing their stamina. Few pitchers answer the question with complete honesty. Per their nature, taking oneself out of a game is anathema.

"I don't think that's going to be a problem," Buchholz said. "I'm sure there's going to be people talking to me each time I leave the field. Being at this level, especially on this stage, it's tough to take yourself out of a game. I've never done that before. But with this scenario that's going on right now, I'm going to tell them the truth. It's not going to be one of those times where you might be feeling tired but still telling everybody that you're good to go."

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