Clay Buchholz aims to return for the postseason

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The Red Sox confirmed today that Clay Buchholz does indeed have a stress fracture in his lower back, but Terry Francona told Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com that his return this season “hasn’t been ruled out.”

Buchholz will take part in a five-step recovery program, beginning with core-strengthening exercises, before being reevaluated in a month. If all goes well, he could then be cleared to begin a throwing program.

The odds of him returning this season will be long because the minor league schedule ends in early September, which means that he likely wouldn’t be able to make any rehab starts against advanced competition. Still, Buchholz is holding out hope that he will be able to return should the Red Sox reach the postseason.

“If there was a timetable then the postseason is where I’d want to come back. That makes the most sense to me,” said Buchholz. “I’ve been frustrated for a while. I’ve wanted to go out there and pitch. That’s why I’m here and that’s why they gave me the extension that they gave me earlier this year. It’s definitely something I didn’t want to happen, but I also believe that everything happens for a reason.”

According to Tony Lee of NESN.com, Buchholz is prepared to pitch out of the bullpen if he is able to return this season, but he is also willing to go to the instructional league in Florida to build up his pitch count if the Red Sox want need to make a start. Of course, looking at the bigger picture, the good news is that he is expected to be 100 percent for spring training next season.

Justin Turner is a postseason monster

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A not-insignificant amount of the Dodgers’ success in recent years has to do with the emergence of Justin Turner. In his first five seasons with the Orioles and Mets, he was a forgettable infielder who had versatility, but no power. The Mets non-tendered him after the 2013 season, a move they now really regret.

In four regular seasons since, as a Dodger, Turner has hit an aggregate .303/.378/.502. His 162-game averages over those four seasons: 23 home runs, 36 doubles, 83 RBI, 80 runs scored. And he’s also a pretty good third baseman, it turns out. The Dodgers have averaged 95 wins per season over the past four years.

Turner, 32, has gotten better and better with each passing year. This year, he drew more walks (59) than strikeouts (56), a club only five other players (min. 300 PA) belonged to, and he trailed only Joey Votto (1.61) in BB/K ratio (1.05). He zoomed past his previous career-high in OPS, finishing at .945. His .415 on-base percentage was fourth-best in baseball. His batting average was fifth-best and only nine points behind NL batting champion Charlie Blackmon.

It doesn’t seem possible, but Turner has been even better in the postseason. He exemplified that with his walk-off home run to win Game 2 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Overall, entering Wednesday night’s action, he was batting .363/.474/.613 in 97 postseason plate appearances. In Game 4, he went 2-for-2 with two walks, a single, and a solo home run. That increases his postseason slash line to .378/.495/.659, now across 101 plate appearances. That’s a 1.154 OPS. The career-high regular season OPS for future first-ballot Hall of Famer Albert Pujols was 1.114 in 2008, when he won his third career MVP Award. Statistically, in the postseason, Turner hits slightly better than Pujols did in the prime of his career. Of course, we should adjust for leagues and parks and all that, but to even be in that neighborhood is incredible.

In the age of stats, the concept of “clutch” has rightfully eroded. We don’t really allow players to ascend to godlike levels anymore like the way we did Derek Jeter, for instance. (Jeter’s career OPS in the playoffs, by the way, was a comparatively pitiful .838.) Turner isn’t clutch; he’s just a damn good hitter whose careful approach at the plate has allowed him to shine in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t imagine life without him.