Clay Buchholz expected to throw bullpen session Saturday

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Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz is ready to take another big step in the right direction.

According to beat writer Ian Browne of MLB.com, the right-hander tossed 30 pitches in front of a mound on Thursday and could be cleared to throw his first “full-fledged” bullpen session as early as Saturday.

Buchholz has been sidelined since the middle of June with a stress fracture in his L2 vertebrae.

He’s hoping to return as a long reliever for the final couple days of the regular season, and possibly the playoffs. But he’ll have to make it through the bullpen session unscathed before plans of that sort can be made.

The 27-year-old right-hander had a 3.48 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 14 starts before the back injury.

Report: Nationals sign reliever Brandon Kintzler to a two-year deal

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Both a Kinsler and a Kintzler made headlines at the Winter Meetings. After the Angels acquired second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Nationals have inked reliever Brandon Kintzler to a two-year contract, pending a physical. Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY Sports reports that the deal is worth $10 million and includes a third-year option worth $6 million.

Kintzler, 33, spent the latter half of his 2017 campaign with the Nationals after the Twins traded him. Between both clubs, he put up an aggregate 3.03 ERA with 29 saves and a 39/16 K/BB ratio in 71 1/3 innings.

Sean Doolittle will handle save situations for the Nationals. Kintzler and Ryan Madson will bridge the gap to him in the seventh and eighth innings.