The hope was that Clay Buchholz would pitch two innings in his spring training debut on Saturday. He didn’t accomplish that feat, but all was not lost in the right-hander’s effort.
Buchholz was lifted in the second inning after throwing 40 pitches, 22 of which were strikes. He had to battle on a number of occasions, and he gave up a hit and walked two batters, so it was far from a flawless 1 1/3 innings of work. But given the circumstances, it could have been worse, especially since the issues that plagued Buchholz in his first spring start seem like they can be corrected in due time.
What isn’t correctable is health. Buchholz can work on his mechanics and work on changing his approach in an effort to improve going forward, but none of that can be accomplished if the righty is incapable of toeing the rubber on a consistent basis. That’s why Buchholz’s physical state is ultimately what matters coming out of Saturday’s start. The actual results are secondary.
Buchholz hadn’t pitched before Saturday because of a mild hamstring strain he suffered in PFP drills during the first week of camp. Buchholz said at the time that he didn’t expect the injury to be a big deal, and two simulated games and a spring start later, it’s clear the 28-year-old is at least on the right path.
“It was good to get out there,” Buchholz told reporters in Fort Myers. “I was little amped up at the beginning. Left a couple pitches up in the zone and lost a couple hitters in some counts that we’d like to either let them get themselves out or put them away. But given the fact that this was the first time out, I was happy with everything. Felt like the ball was coming out of my hand good, and used just about all my pitches.”
The fact that Buchholz used all of his pitches is a good sign, even if it meant an early hook on Saturday. The first start of spring training is often a chance to ease into things, but the use of his whole arsenal shows that Buchholz really has no limitations going forward. That, manager John Farrell thinks, will ultimately benefit Buchholz as we inch closer to Opening Day.
“He used all his pitches. First time on the mound, I think with each added inning — he likes to pitch with a constant mix, using all his pitches — I think with repetition, sharpness will come,” Farrell told reporters. “No ill effects with the hamstring. So a good day of work.”
One month from now, a start like Saturday’s will hardly be considered a “good day of work” for Buchholz. Fortunately for the Red Sox, there’s plenty of time to work out the kinks before now and then, and Buchholz will be moving forward as a healthy man.
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