BOSTON -- Two outings into Al Alburquerque's Minor League rehab assignment, the right-handed reliever appears to at least be back in his strikeout form. All four outs he recorded at Class A Lakeland came by strikeout, while all four balls put in play against him went for base hits.
Alburquerque has a long way to go yet before he's declared ready for the big leagues, and until he can get to that point, he isn't anywhere near the forefront of manager Jim Leyland's concerns.
"Alburquerque right now is on the back burner for me, way back," Leyland said, "because you don't know how he's going to come out of it health-wise. I mean, if Alburquerque could get himself into the form that he was last year, he's going to be a big league pitcher, and he'd be on this staff."
In other words, he needs to continue it for a longer stretch against upper-level hitters before he becomes a serious consideration for the bullpen.
"A lot of people don't understand, because a guy's back throwing doesn't mean he's ready for the big leagues. The guy gets through a two-inning performance in Lakeland, but it doesn't mean he's ready for the big leagues. His arm's got to be able to take the stress. You have to find those things out. He's got to pitch. He's got to build back up."