ARI@BOS: Holt makes nice catch then doubles up Nieves

HOUSTON -- Coming to Houston wasn't exactly a homecoming for Red Sox infielder Brock Holt, but it was close enough.

Holt played one year at Rice before being drafted by Pittsburgh in the ninth round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft. Boston acquired him in December as part of the Joel Hanrahan trade.

Holt grew up in Stephenville, Texas, and played two years at Navarro College before transferring to Rice.

"I wanted someplace close to home and I wanted a chance to get to Omaha [for the College World Series]," Holt said of choosing Rice.

Rice, which won it all in 2003, nearly made it back to the College World Series in 2009, losing to LSU in the Super Regionals at Baton Rouge. LSU went on to win the College World Series that year.

Holt decided it was time to move on.

"I didn't really have any idea where I'd be drafted," he said. "I expected to go maybe a little higher. I was ready to try professional baseball. Being in the top 10 rounds is still pretty good. I've had to prove myself every step of the way. I was fortunate, because [Pittsburgh] was a good organization to come up in."

Holt hit .292 in 24 games with the Pirates last September after batting .432 in 24 games for Triple-A Indianapolis.

The trade to the Red Sox surprised him.

"I was a little shocked at first, because I didn't know what to expect," Holt said. "I didn't know my name was being talked about being traded. I heard the Red Sox organization wanted me as part of the deal. It's not that the Pirates didn't want [me]. The Red Sox wanted me. That made me feel good, to come over here and playing with an organization like that. I was pumped."

Holt made his 14th start of the season Tuesday night at third base. The Red Sox have had six players start at third base this season, with Will Middlebrooks making the most starts with 52.

Holt could be playing more if he wasn't with a first place team, but he is happy to be where he is.

"You can think different things, but I'm just happy to be here and be part of this experience, be around such a great group of guys," he said.

Holt said the No. 1 thing he learned this season is versatility.

"Coming in, I played basically middle infield," he said. "In Spring Training, I started working at third base. Also, being able to work with [Dustin] Pedroia at second base, he's one of the best to ever play that position. I've learned more about playing second base, too. Playing different positions will help me in the future."

Buchholz feels 'real good' after throwing off mound

LAA@BOS: Buchholz makes an amazing tag on Callaspo

HOUSTON -- Right-hander Clay Buchholz took another step forward Tuesday by throwing off the mound for the first time since July 17.

Buchholz said he felt "real good" after throwing 27 pitches, mostly fastballs.

"He came out of today's mound work feeling pretty good about himself," manager John Farrell said. "More importantly, he's built up enough of a foundation that we can build a mound progression for him to follow. That's still in the works, what makes the most sense."

Buchholz said his next step would be to throw a regular bullpen session, possibly Friday in Kansas City.

Buchholz began the season 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in 12 starts before being placed on the disabled list June 9 with a neck strain. An MRI taken in June revealed no structural damage, but it did show that he has inflammation in the bursa sac area of his shoulder.

"It's just progression with bullpen [sessions]," said Buchholz, who last pitched June 8. "I'm trying to build up more pitches, obviously. I'm not sure how long it's going to take."

Buchholz proclaimed himself about 60 to 65 percent after Tuesday's workout.

"I went and threw all the pitches I had," he said. "It's a little sore at the moment. There's going to be a progression of bullpen [sessions] before anything else happens. The bullpen [sessions] are pretty normal, then some simulated stuff and rehab [games]."

Buchholz said he felt encourage compared with the last bullpen session he threw in Oakland prior to the All-Star break.

"It's definitely better than it was a couple of weeks ago," he said. "It's night and day compared with [the bullpen session in Oakland]."

Buchholz said he was not concerned with his velocity at this point.

"Velocity was not one of the things I was trying to do today," he said. "The ball was coming out of my hand good without trying to throw hard. That comes from not throwing for a while. The velocity's going to come when I start doing the bullpen [sessions]."

No timetable has been set for Buchholz's return.

"Today was 27 pitches of decent intensity, with all his pitches thrown," Farrell said. "He felt nothing [in pain] compared to his last bullpen session in Oakland. Today was a good step for him."

Lackey's ankle sore, but says he'll be OK

BOS@HOU: Lackey shaken up on chopper to the mound

HOUSTON -- John Lackey walked gingerly across the Red Sox's clubhouse Tuesday afternoon after turning his left ankle in Monday night's 2-0 loss to the Astros.

Lackey injured the ankle fielding a slow grounder by Houston's Matt Dominguez in the second inning. Lackey threw out Dominguez for the third out of the inning and was able to stay in the game.

"It's just sore. I'll be all right," Lackey said. "It still doesn't look great."

Lackey planned to get treatment later in the afternoon.

"Probably everything they've got in there," he laughed.

Lackey (7-9) pitched six-plus innings against the Astros. He threw 113 pitches, giving up both Houston runs on eight hits and striking out 10, his second most strikeouts of the season. He was pulled after giving up a leadoff double and bunt single in the seventh.

"He was a little slow," manager John Farrell said of seeing Lackey walk Tuesday. "He'll be off the foot today. He's got an extra day of rest."

Knuckleballer Steven Wright made his first Major League start Tuesday night for the Red Sox, pushing everybody in the rotation back a day. Lackey isn't schedule to pitch again until Sunday in Kansas City.

Farrell wasn't sure if Lackey would be able to stay in the game Monday night with the ankle injury.

"If we saw anything different [in his delivery], 'Don't fight us, because you're coming out of that game,'" Farrell said he told Lackey. "We're not going to take any chances. The treatment he gets the next few days is going to be important.

"I think he did a great job. He pitched with it -- and pitched pretty darn well."

Lackey downplayed any talk about his injury being serious.

"I've hurt my elbow worse than that," he said. "[My ankle] will be fine."

Worth noting

• Reliever Matt Thornton, who left Sunday's game against the D-backs with a strained right oblique, is starting to feel better.

"He feels improved, just by going through range of motion type movements," Farrell said. "If it's not really restricted, he'll play light catch up to 90 feet. A roster decision may have to be made if we don't see further progression by tomorrow. He's improved and we want to give him another day."

• The Red Sox were not short in the bullpen with Thornton unavailable after recalling right-hander Brandon Workman on Monday from Triple-A Pawtucket. Workman replaced Daniel Nava, who is on ths paternity leave, on the roster.

Nava is scheduled to rejoin the Red Sox Thursday in Kansas City.