How’s this for an endorsement of the way Clay Buchholz pitched Tuesday night in his first start in three months?

Pedro Martinez said not even he could have done better after such a long layoff.

“Right away to have a feel for the ball and put it where I wanted to? No” Martinez said prior to the Red Sox’ 7-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays last night. “That’s something that I couldn’t do.”

And Martinez has some experience with this kind of thing. Midway through the 2009 season he signed with the Philadelphia Phillies and returned to the mound after 11 months to make nine regular-season starts and three more in the playoffs including two in the World Series.

It isn’t exactly an apples-to-apples comparison. Buchholz’ layoff caused by a right shoulder strain was substantially shorter. He’s also 29 eight years younger than Martinez was in 2009.

But the general idea is the same. Like Martinez Buchholz is a difference-making pitcher joining a first-place team for the stretch run after sitting out for an extended period which underscores how good he looked in allowing only three hits and one walk in five scoreless innings against the Rays.

“I thought from my own experience that the feel for the ball was going to be an issue. It was not” said Martinez who was at Tropicana Field to watch Buchholz pitch Tuesday night. “It did not affect his game. And he was able to not only locate the ball but move it the way he wanted it which will tell you there’s no limits on his abilities. Eventually I got there but it took me a couple outings to actually get it going. It’s really impressive. I’m really impressed.”

Martinez posted a 3.63 ERA in 2009 outdueling then San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum in one start and throwing 130 pitches against the New York Mets in another. He helped lift the Phillies into the postseason even tossing seven shutout innings in Game 2 of the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Now a special assistant to Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington Martinez has no doubt Buchholz could make a similar impact for the Sox bolstering a rotation that already includes dependable veterans Jon Lester John Lackey and Jake Peavy.

One day after making the long-awaited return from his shoulder issue Buchholz felt “nothing abnormal” according to manager John Farrell and will take his regular turn in the rotation Sunday night at Fenway Park against the New York Yankees. He also is expected to make an incremental increase from the 74 pitches he threw against the Rays.

“He could be probably the biggest key for us” Martinez said. “We were all surprised about the way he looked given the fact that he has been away so long. For him it didn’t seem to be a matter. He shows you what kind of pitcher you have out there.”