In the last two weeks, the Boston Red Sox starting rotation seems to have dug themselves out of the mud they were entrenched in the beginning of this season. Lester has won his last two decisions including the first complete game of the year for the staff, Beckett has gone at least seven innings in his last two starts surrendering only one earned run since being tee’d up for 7 runs against the Indians on May 10th, Doubront continues to be the unusual surprise of this staff sporting a solid 4-1 record and 4.09 ERA in 8 starts, averaging a strikeout an inning (44 SO, 44.0 IP), Daniel Bard has shown flashes of promise as an eventual top end rotation guy, but will continue to be a project that the Sox Coaching staff works upon, and last (pun intended) but not least, there’s Clay Buccholz.
It was Clay that started this rotations return to relativity when he went 6 and 1/3 innings giving up only 3 earned runs en route to a 7-5 Sox victory over the Indians on May 11th. Although he was slated with a loss his following start against the Rays, Buchholz gave up only two earned runs in 5 innings of work. He had only threw 87 pitches in that start, but Bobby V pulled the plug early after watching him take a line drive to the foot in the top of the 6th inning. As two steps were taken forward by the wiry Buchholz, one step was taken back last night when he gave up 5 earned runs for the 7th time in 9 starts this year taking a no decision in Boston’ s 8-6 victory over the first place Baltimore Orioles. To say he has been anything less than a loose cannon or a statistical oddity would be an extreme understatement. The only reason he has managed his four wins on the season is due to the 8.88 runs/game his offense puts up in his starts, leading all starters in the majors. His abysmal 7.84 ERA is also leading the league and starting to resemble the Energizer bunny’s famous phrase… “Just keeps going and going and going…” anywhere but down. As much promise as he has shown early in his career, the organization needs to make a decision regarding what the appropriate course of action would be regarding one of their coveted arms in this young staff. The luck they have had salvaging his poor performances with an onslaught of hitting is not one that is going to be able to withstand the 162 game season. Whether it’s him being afraid of hurting his back that limited him to only 9 starts a season ago, or he is lying and is still feeling some ill effects from that nagging back I am not sure of. I don’t even think Web MD can diagnose this situation. Prior to the beginning of the 2011 season, He had added some much needed weight to his wiry frame, but then made comments while being injured saying that he felt that his body was not built to support the extra muscle he had put on. I strongly disagree with that statement because in order for his 6’3 190 lb frame to withstand the 200 IP and 35 or so starts that are demanded from a number three starter that extra muscle would help him become more durable, but I will be the first to say that an expertise in sports medicine is not something I claim to have. His velocity has dropped severely in his fastball as he now tops out at the occasional 93mph but averages 90-92 on his cutter and four seamer. His breaking ball has seemed to level off more since recovering from his injury whereas before he had a nasty bite that buckled hitter’s knees relentlessly. Being able to pitch with runners on base has been another severe problem of his. The minute the opposing team reaches the base paths his demeanor takes a 360 degree turn for the worse. Any sense of focus and control he has is immediately gone which his emotions quickly reveal to the opposing batter leaving him at an extreme disadvantage to the enemies. Once they smell his frustration, teams become patient with their approach at the plate forcing Buchholz to beat them with quality pitches. Watching him fall off the map so hard and so fast continues to be very puzzling. There is no question that September 1, 2007 will be one of the most memorable parts of Clay Buccholz’s legacy in a Red Sox uniform when he threw a no hitter in only his second major league start. Five years later, that same pitcher that set the bar so high for himself continues to struggle through what has been a rough past two years. Getting back to being that dominant hurler is the goal at hand for Buchholz going forward, but you have to crawl before you can walk. This will continue to be a process that is grueling for all parties involved until he can become what he once was. In the end, the Sox need to find a happy medium in trying to help one of their more talented young players shape back into form without sacrificing the betterment of the team’s performance. Easier said than done.
About the Author
Written by Jefferson Mills
I am a 22 year old aspiring sports journalist. I graduated from Hofstra University with a BA in Broadcast Journalism and was born and raised in Norwood, MA, twenty minutes south of the great city of Boston. Sports consume my life in every which way as I have been an athlete since the age of 8 playing organized football, baseball and basketball throughout high school and have been an avid die-hard Patriots, Bruins, Red Sox and Celtics fan. I Interned for the "Mecca of Sports Radio" WFAN 660 AM while in college and also interned for News 12 Long Island. Working as a member of the hardest working sports department in one of the most talented college radio stations 88.7 FM WRHU is the one thing I am most proud of when it comes to my work in the field. My passion and work ethic define who I am as a writer, person and friend which is why I hope to become successful in the sports Broadcasting spectrum in years to come.