Jon Lester comes off DL, Clay Buchholz makes progress for Boston

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The American League’s best team seems poised to get a little better.

The Red Sox activated Jon Lester from the disabled list in advance of his start Monday against the Royals.  He’s slated to throw 80-85 pitches tonight, manager Terry Francona told CSNNE.com.

Lester missed three weeks with a left lat strain.

“Kind of stating the obvious that we’re really excited to have him back,” Francona said. “The only limitation we have tonight is probably a pitch count and that’s just because of common sense. But he feels good and there’s no restrictions pitching physically. There’s no issues there. Hopefully get back in a rhythm and get him back where he was in and turn him loose. Our guys have done a great job filling in for him but you need guys like Lester.”

As expected, J.D. Drew was placed on the DL to make room for Lester on the roster. Kyle Weiland was shifted to the bullpen for now.

But Lester’s return wasn’t the only good news for Boston today.  Clay Buchholz, out five weeks with a strained back, threw 30 pitches in a bullpen session and said it’s the best he’s felt.

“I think this is the biggest step in the right direction so far in this process,” Buchholz said. “I don’t feel like there was any hitch in the delivery. It was what I wanted to go out there and do.”

There is no timetable for Buchholz’s return.  From what he was telling the Boston Globe, he’s still a few weeks away.

“I want to be ready to go,” he said. “If it’s the middle of August, that’s good. If it’s September, that’s good, too. I want to try to come back and help this team get to the postseason and work our way from there.”

Aaron Judge returns to the Yankees lineup

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The lineups for the Red Sox-Yankees game for this evening were just released and, lo and behold, Aaron Judge is back in it for the Yankees. He’ll be batting second and playing right field.

Judge was activated four days ago but had been limited to defense and base running. As of yesterday signs pointed to him not hitting today, but he took swings in a simulated game for the second straight day today — taking advantage of the previously-scheduled day game being moved to this evening — and things must’ve gone well.

Judge has been out since late July due to a fractured wrist suffered when he was hit by a fastball from Royals pitcher Jakob Junis. He has taken longer than expected to recover from the injury and the Yankees have felt his absence as he was hitting .285/.398/.548 with 26 home runs and 61 RBI in 447 plate appearances when he went down and no one has, obviously, been able to replace his production.

Now he’s back to help the Yankees fend off the A’s for the top Wild Card spot.