BOSTON – The second “spring training” for Clay Buchholz continued Sunday night, with the right-hander showing the rust we expected to see last week.

Buchholz walked four and hit another (on a pitch that would have been ball four anyway).

But Sunday still was a success.

“If he walks out to start the sixth inning, that will be another step in the right direction,” Boston Manager John Farrell said before the game.

Buchholz walked out for the sixth and finished it. He remained an undefeated pitcher and has not allowed an earned run since his return.

Buchholz, who spent three months on the disabled list, made a surprisingly dominant re-entry into major-league ball last week with five shutout innings at Tampa Bay, giving up three hits and one walk, while striking out six.

That led to high hopes Sunday. While he was wild, Buchholz was also effective, allowing only two hits and one unearned run.

Only one of the walks hurt — to lead-off batter Curtis Granderson, who took third base on Buchholz’s errant pick-off throw, and scored on a groundout.

After a 1-2-3 second inning, Buchholz allowed two runners apiece in the third and fourth, but escaped with double-plays.

Few pitches were working for Buchholz, but he continued to attempt them. It’s what makes Buchholz a frontline pitcher, after all.

“He is constantly reinforcing that touch and feel,” Farrell said.

We saw that feel at Hadlock Field in 2007, when Buchholz recorded gem after gem, showing off his repertoire of fastball, curve, change-up and slider.

A cut fastball has since replaced the slider and Buchholz was using everything from the start.

In Granderson’s first at-bat, he saw two fastballs, two cutters, a change-up, a curve and a split-fingered fastball.

The cutter was Buchholz’s most consistent pitch, as his fastball command was in and out. The curveball came along as the game progressed, and Buchholz threw only two change-ups for strikes (one of them striking out Granderson in the fifth inning).

Buchholz finished with a 1-2-3 sixth inning, including his third strikeout, getting Alfonso Soriano to flail at a curve.

Yes, Buchholz is coming along just fine for when the real season begins — in October.

MARIANO RIVERA was honored before Sunday’s game, his last regular-season appearance at Fenway Park. Rivera, 43, is retiring after this year.

But the program began with more of a salute to the 2004 Red Sox, with the video board showing taped interviews of Kevin Millar, Dave Roberts and Bill Mueller talking about Rivera’s blown save in the key Game 4 of the 2004 American League Championship Series.

Is this how the Red Sox honor someone, re-visiting a player’s low moment while patting themselves on the back?

The program got classier after that with the Red Sox presenting Rivera several gifts — a portrait, a signed No. 42 placard that is used on the Red Sox scoreboard, a 1934 Fenway Park seat, a pitching rubber from the visiting bullpen and, best of all, a donation to one of Rivera’s charities (a school in his native Panama) from the Red Sox Foundation.

By the way, Rivera’s first Fenway appearance was a two-inning effort on July 16, 1996. His catcher was Joe Girardi.

LEFTY FRANKLIN MORALES is evolving as a possible solution to the Red Sox middle-relief question mark.

Morales, 27, spent much of this season on the disabled list. Held back in spring training with a weak shoulder, he also suffered from a strained pectoral muscle. He made three rehab appearances at Hadlock Field.

Morales rejoined the Red Sox in mid-August and is getting better and better. In his last six appearances (5 1/3 innings), Morales has allowed no runs, one hit and one walk, while striking out four.

“He’s had a hit-or-miss year as far as health. That’s behind him,” Farrell said. “To see the power he is throwing with is very encouraging. He adds another dimension to our bullpen. Those innings where we need a strikeout, he has that capability.

“He can be a huge boost to us going forward.”

SINCE WILL MIDDLEBROOKS homered off Rivera in the ninth inning on Sept. 9, he has gone 0-for-17. Middlebrooks was out of the lineup Sunday, but Farrell said it was not because of the slump. A flu bug is going around the clubhouse and Middlebrooks caught it.

Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases

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