BOSTON -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia has finally shed Jason Varitek's shadow.
After his go-ahead grand slam that led the Red Sox to an 8-4 victory over the Yankees on Friday night, manager John Farrell was asked about Saltalamacchia's reputation in comparison to Varitek. Farrell said it's time to drop the comparisons.
"He's been extremely important. And more than anything, Salty has become his own guy," Farrell said. "And he's evolved into someone who is more aware of what his needs are as a player, where his strengths exist. … I think as the year has gone on, he's gained confidence in the consistency and routine that's provided and he uses.
"He knows where our starting pitchers are, he knows our pitches much more readily, and I think because of that confidence, he's been able to read swings much more clear and make more accurate pitch selections, or more appropriate pitch selections. He's evolving into a front-line catcher."
The 28-year-old, who enters free agency following this season, has come a long way since 2011, when he hit .235 and led the league with 26 passed balls (many of which came from catching knuckleballer Tim Wakefield). Entering Saturday, Saltalamacchia was hitting .263 with just seven passed balls.
With similar offensive numbers and growing trust of the pitching staff, the comparisons to Varitek had been natural.
"Jason's a mentor to everybody that's in the same uniform," Farrell said. "But not everybody is going to do it like Jason, and that's probably more the point I was trying to get to. Salty's his own guy, and he stands on his own feet. He's a much more confident player right now, and it's shown in his leadership skills on the field. That's leading a pitching staff or a pitcher on a given night through some tough spots. It's been great to see."
Buchholz feels good, looking to regain sharpness
BOSTON -- Ready to make his second start since June 8 on Sunday night against the Yankees, Clay Buchholz doesn't think his pitch quality is as sharp as it was during the first half of the season.
After missing more than three months with a bursa sac injury, Buchholz said his body feels incredibly fresh for this time of year. But freshness doesn't translate to consistency, which takes time to build up.
"The innings -- obviously you can get worn out from that, but the repetition from doing the same thing over and over again, that's how people get better throughout the season," Buchholz said. "It's tough not throwing for 2 1/2 months."
Buchholz was still able to shut out the Rays over five innings of work on Tuesday. He held them to just three hits, struck out six batters and needed only 74 pitches to do it.
Sharp or not, Buchholz has already impressed, particularly with his curveball and changeup, which usually take the most time to master after long layoffs.
Why no rust? Asked how often he had a baseball in his hand during the three months off, he said, "always." Even during his rehab starts, which many pitchers use to simply fire fastballs and test their arms, Buchholz was throwing six different pitches.
"It was impressive to see him go out in the first start back with us and have the feel to the secondary stuff," manager John Farrell said. "So to his credit, he just has that ability to manipulate the baseball."
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who caught Buchholz on Tuesday, said his fastball had plenty of life and his curve and changeup were biting as usual. Command was the only issue.
"Just a few fastball locations, but then there were counts where he located his fastball really well with good velocity," Saltalamacchia said. "Part of that is just him easing himself into it, which is what we needed him to do. He doesn't need to go out there and try to throw 100 percent, hurt yourself again or leave the ball up."
Farrell said there will be a pitch count in mind for Buchholz's start on Sunday. But Buchholz has shown he can still be dominant, even as a work in progress.
He really only needs two things: fastball and cutter.
"For the most part, if I'm able to throw a fastball for a strike, I'm able to throw a cutter off that fastball," Buchholz said. "So I'm a sinker-cutter guy, and I throw a lot of those over. If I'm able to throw to both sides of the plate just using those two pitches, that's really what I've been doing all year. And then every four times I throw a curve ball I can drop it over for a strike; that starts to count another pitch.
"There's a point in every game where you're going to need another pitch. Regardless if it's a strike or a ball, the hitter knows you might throw it, so that puts another pitch in the back of their head."
Sox to give Doubront start against Blue Jays
BOSTON -- Felix Doubront will be back in the Red Sox's starting rotation next weekend, at least for one start.
Manager John Farrell said Doubront, who hasn't pitched since Sept. 6, will throw a side session Saturday, a simulated game on Tuesday and will be ready to make a start for the Red Sox in the following series against the Blue Jays.
Without a quality start since Aug. 27, Doubront had allowed 10 runs over 7 1/3 combined innings between his last two outings. When Clay Buchholz returned from injury, Doubront was given some rest.
"We felt this was the need, just from the physical standpoint," Farrell said. "There wasn't anything glaring inside the last five or six starts he made, it was just the lack of consistency. And to me that looked like fatigue."
Doubront, 25, jumped his innings total from 82 2/3 in 2011 to 161 in 2012. He's thrown 154 innings this season, and Farrell hinted that the innings jump might've been enough to cause Doubront's body to tire.
"He went through different phases this year, where he started a little behind in Spring Training, caught up, went on a very good run for an extended period of time and then things started to catch up again," Farrell said. "That's just our response to the waves that he's gone through, and you have to address it accordingly."
• Closer Koji Uehara entered Saturday having retired 37 consecutive batters faced, the longest stretch in club history and longest for any reliever since White Sox closer Bobby Jenks retired 41 straight batters in 2007. According to SABR, Jenks' streak is the longest for a reliever.
• Mariano Rivera, who could be making his last visit to Fenway Park before he retires at season's end, will be honored in a pregame ceremony on Sunday night. Fans are invited to their seats at 7:30 p.m. ET for the 8:05 game.
• Entering Saturday's start against Yankees' lefty CC Sabathia, the Red Sox had defeated nine straight left-handed starters.