FORT MYERS, Fla. – Clay Buchholz worked a spring-high 5 1/3 innings Saturday afternoon against the Pirates, giving up one run on four hits and a walk with four strikeouts. But the right-hander’s efforts went for naught as the Pirates came back against the Sox bullpen to win, 5-3.
“Everything feels good,” said Buchholz. “It feels good to feel good, really. All the pitches are coming along. A few here and there, maybe I'm trying too hard to make a better pitch than what I should. But at
least they're good pitches -- they're down for the most part. Everything's rolling along right now.”
Buchholz had runners in every inning but the fifth, allowing the first batters in each of his other four innings to reach base, but managed to contain the Pirates. Garrett Jones’ first home run of the spring, leading off the second inning, accounted for the lone run Buchholz allowed. Buchholz threw 88 pitches, 56 for strikes.
“A number of quality pitches with men in scoring position,” said manager John Farrell. “I thought he kept the game in check, didn’t speed up on him at all. Thought he and [catcher] David [Ross] worked well together in those situations to use all his pitches. Again, another very solid outing for Clay.”
In five Grapefruit League outings this spring, spanning 18 2/3 innings, Buchholz has allowed just two runs for a 0.96 ERA on 11 hits and five walks, with 16 strikeouts.
“It's a confidence builder going into the season,” Buchholz said. “In the stretch we have to start the season, I think it's going to be the best thing to have some confidence going into it. It's definitely a little different from the last couple of springs. It's good to see the work going into it is paying off a little bit.''
Entering the game, Red Sox starting pitchers combined to lead the majors with a 2.51 ERA, giving up 26 earned runs over 93 innings this spring, and also lead in opponents’ average (.204) and WHIP (1.108).
“It's going to be fun,” Buchholz said. “People are overlooking Ryan [Dempster] and John [Lackey] and putting it all on [Jon Lester] and me. But it's going to take me and Lester going out there and having good seasons. It's a group effort as far as the starting staff goes and everybody looks ready. Everybody looks fresh every time they're out there. Pitches are crisp and I think it's going to be fun to watch.”
But, if the Sox rotation is underrated, Buchholz prefers it that way.
“Yeah, I'd rather have it like that way than going out there and every time you give up a run you feel like the world's ending,” he said. “Everybody's going to go through some bad stretches and everybody has to realize that. That's what makes a team good -- whenever you can go out there and have a bad inning and rebound and let your team have a chance to get back into the game rather than it snowballing on you. So that's a common theme for everybody, knowing that the good times are going to be there and there's also going to be a select number of bad times that you're going to have to deal with. This staff, everybody's been through it.”
On Saturday, he Sox got their runs early, off Pirates starter left-hander Jeff Locke. In the second, Jarrod Saltalamacchia led off with a double to left field, scoring on David Ross’ single to right. Ross took third on right fielder Travis Snider’s error, scoring on Jose Iglesias’ single to center.
With one out in the third, Will Middlebrooks tripled off the wall in left-center, scoring on Saltalamacchia's single to left, putting Boston up, 3-1.
But Junichi Tazawa and Anthony Carter combined to give up four runs in the eighth. Tazawa, who relieved Buchholz with one out in the sixth, appeared in three innings for the first time this spring. He got out of the sixth on a double-play ball and got through a perfect seventh. But he “hit a wall quickly” as Farrell said in the eighth, giving up two walks with one out. Carter allowed both inherited runners to score, then gave up a two-run homer to Pedro Alvarez. They were the first runs charged to Tazawa since he gave up two to the Orioles on Feb. 27, and the first Carter has allowed this spring in 10 innings.