Red Sox management has been waiting for players to come off the disabled list and back onto the field.

Now, it’s finally happening. Clay Buchholz will pitch Wednesday night in the final game of this series in Oakland. He tuned up with a 60-pitch, 32/3-inning effort for Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday night and will be looking for his 11th win of the season when he starts against the A’s.

On Saturday night, Josh Beckett threw 80 pitches for Pawtucket. Tonight, he will throw an extended side session, and barring any setbacks he will pitch Friday night in Seattle. It will be his first start for Boston since May 18.

The Red Sox have been a battered unit. The list of injuries has been well documented. Ten players are on the disabled list, and the team has lost a total of 559 man-games over the first 92 games of the season. That means the Sox have averaged six players on the shelf every time they’ve taken the field.

And these aren’t just average players. The Sox have six former All-Stars on the DL. That includes a former MVP, two former World Series MVPs and both regular catchers.

It will still be a while before the offense gets back to full strength. Victor Martinez is not yet able to play catch without a little help. Dustin Pedroia and Jason Varitek are still in walking boots to protect their broken feet. Jacoby Ellsbury is essentially in the early stages of spring training.

The hope right now is that pitching can carry the Sox through the next two weeks, especially through this daunting 10-game West Coast trip. Sabremetricians rank Buchholz as one of the top five pitchers in the American League this season, and Beckett got the ball on opening night against the Yankees. If those two are able to hit the ground running, the Sox would have one of the best rotations in the game, with Jon Lester, John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka rounding out the top five.

If pitching is to carry the day, the bullpen will need to perform better. Red Sox relievers have given up 41 home runs, the most in the majors, and they have the American League’s second-highest ERA (4.55.) With the non-waiver trade deadline looming, the Sox are one of a dozen teams looking for bullpen help.

There is a bit of good news here; help might come from within. Manny Delcarmen returned from the DL on Saturday night, and picked up the only win of the Texas series with a 1-2-3 inning in the 11th. A day later, Michael Bowden made his first big-league appearance of the season and pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning that included two strikeouts.

Delcarmen had pitched well until the 10 days leading up to his placement on the injured list; Bowden has been lights out after being converted from starter to reliever in Pawtucket.

Those two, in addition to Jonathan Papelbon and Daniel Bard, should give the Sox enough arms to keep the bullpen afloat. Papelbon pitched two strong innings Saturday night and told people he feels as good about his pitches as he has in a long time. Bard, in danger of being overworked, has only appeared in three games this month. With the team in a stretch of 27 games in 28 days (20 of them on the road), they’ll need Bard to be fresh.

That stretch wraps up with a 10-game trip that includes series in New York and Texas. The Yankees and Rangers are both legitimate playoff contenders.

But the Sox could feature a much stronger lineup by then, with the likes of Pedroia, Martinez and Jeremy Hermida playing. If they are within striking distance, it could be a good enough lineup to make a late-season kick to the finish line.

The Sox will have to survive the next two weeks to be in that position, and they’ll need to get strong pitching every night.


Tom Caron is the studio host for Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network. His column appears in the Press Herald on Tuesdays.