Buchholz 'efficient, outstanding' in win over Yankees

Buchholz 'efficient, outstanding' in win over Yankees
April 4, 2013, 2:00 am
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NEW YORK -- There were plenty of factors working against Clay Buchholz in his first start of the season.

Start with the conditions, which featured temperatures in the high 30s, coupled with an ill wind that forced some of his teammates to dress like they were readying for the Iditarod.

Then, there were several long innings while his teammates hit, made longer still by an injury to New York Yankee starter Hiroki Kuroda and additional time for his replacement, Cody Eppley, to warm up.

Finally, there was Buchholz's own recent track record against the Yankees, which included two starts last season that resulted in two lopsided defeats.

But none of that seemed to deter Buchholz Wednesday night. He was effective and economical, limiting the Yankees to a single run over seven innings while needing just 94 pitches to record 21 outs in a 7-4 victory over the Yankees.

"It was cold, man," said Buchholz. "It's probably the coldest I've been while I was pitching. There were definitely some long innings to sit down and have the body cool off and have to go back out there and the wind. The wind was what got me, but I was able to get through it. That's a good thing."

"He threw a lot of early strikes and forced them to swing the bat," said John Farrell. "He was efficient with all of his pitches. Under the cirumstances, he did an outstanding job to continue to put up zeroes when we did score."

Buchholz spent some of his down time in the indoor cage, throwing between innings to stay warm and loose.

This spring, and again Wednesday night, Buchholz has shown himself to be a different pitcher than he was a year ago. While he started 4-2 through the first two months of 2012, he had an ERA over 7.00 at the end of May.

Last year, Buchholz, still mindful of the lower back stress fracture that caused him to miss the second half of 2011, was either unable or unwilling to get on top of the ball, and ended up leaving a lot of pitches up in the strike zone.

This season, Buchholz is able to bury his two-seam fastball in the lower half of the zone and keep his pitches out of the trouble spots.

"He was hitting the strike zone, getting ahead early and mixing all of his pitches," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "It was a different (New York) lineup that we're used to, a lot of new faces, so it was kind of a feel thing. But Buck's going to go out there and pitch his game. And that's what he did."

"This lineup," said Buchholz, ''there are a lot of guys who take advantage of mistakes up in the zone. Everybody knows that. That was my key going into this game -- if I had a good two-seamer, throw it down in the zone and let them hit it on the ground."

Asked to contrast where he is mechanically this April to last year at this time, Buchholz didn't hesitate to note the difference.

"Head and shoulders over (last year)," said Buchholz. "Early (in 2012), definitely, I was thinking 'I don't want to go through (the back issues) again,' and being apprehensive."

For Buchholz, Wednesday was merely an extension of what he had been doing in March in Florida -- working quickly, being efficient and keeping the ball down in the zone.

"He continued tonight what he's been doing all spring training,'' said Farrell. "He threw some good two-seamers to lefties to finish them off. I thought he had four pitches for strikes tonight, particularly his changeup against righthanders. But I think the biggest thing was his overall efficiency.''