Having already unleashed 75 pitches in muggy, 81-degree heat, Clay Buchholz returned to the Red Sox dugout after the fourth inning yesterday and was told he could take the rest of the afternoon off.

But that was unacceptable to him.

After last season, when he missed three months with stress fractures in his back, Buchholz isn't cutting any corners this spring. If anything, he's eager to make up for lost time. And so, he talked manager Bobby Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure into letting him pitch another inning against the Baltimore Orioles, raising his pitch count to 86.

"They asked me after the fourth inning — they said, 'Hey, that's good work for today,'?" Buchholz said. "But I know I need to get my pitch count up because I wasn't ready for my first couple starts last year, so it made me want to go back out there for that fifth inning."

Last spring, Buchholz was so inefficient with his pitch count that he rarely completed five innings. It translated into a wretched April in which he went 1-3 with a 5.33 ERA, hardly what the Red Sox expected after his breakout 2010 season.