ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Making his first start in almost a month after a stay in the hospital and a stint on the disabled list, Clay Buchholz turned in a pretty good outing.
But matched against David Price, pretty good wasn't enough.
Buchholz pitched 6 13 innings Saturday, completing a return from esophagitis, allowing four earned runs on three hits while walking one and striking out eight.
He had checked the Rays on two runs through the first six and convinced Bobby Valentine to send him out for the seventh after throwing 79 pitches.
That proved ill-fated when Buchholz walked Luke Scott to start the inning, then hit Jeff Keppinger, giving the Rays two on with none out. After a sacrifice bunt moved both runners to scoring position, Buchholz came out and the bullpen couldn't hold the one-run lead.
"Buchholz was really good,'' said Valentine. "He was really good until right at the end there.''
"I felt good,'' said Buchholz. "I felt rested. I felt like everything was coming out of my hand pretty good. I got behind Scott. I was still trying to find the changeup at that point in the game and spiked a couple of them.
"It is what it is. You can't give free baserunners to a team like this.''
Buchholz showed good fastball command, which he found encouraging. But he kicked himself for the lapse in the seventh, which proved his undoing.
"Whenever we get ahead of these guys,'' he said, "I need to find a way to keep runners from being on the basepath and giving them some free outs like we did tonight.''
Among the reactions to the news that Bobby Valentine was possibly being considered to be the US amassador to Japan in President Donald Trump’s administration was this beauty from Kevin Youkilis.
Valentine famously called out Youkilis early in his stormy tenure as Red Sox manager in 2012. Remember? "I don't think he's as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason," Bobby V said of Youk at the time.
The Red Sox traded Youkilis to the White Sox for two not-future Hall of Famers, outfielder Brent Lillibridge and right-hander Zach Stewart, later that season.
Youkilis, now Tom Brady’s brother-in-law by the way, had a 21-game stint playing in Japan in 2014 before retiring from baseball.
Major league manager. Inventor of the wrap sandwich. Champion ballroom dancer. And…
US ambassador to Japan?
Bobby Valentine is on the short list for that position in President Donald Trump’s administration, according to a WEEI.com report.
The former Red Sox manager (fired after a 69-93 season and last-place finish in 2012), and ex-New York Mets and Texas Rangers, skipper, also managed the Chiba Lotte Marines in Japan’s Pacific League for six seasons.
When asked by the New York Daily News if he's being considered for the post, Valentine responded: "I haven't been contacted by anyone on Trump's team."
Would he be interested?
"I don't like to deal in hypotheticals," Valentine told the Daily News.
Valentine, 66, has known the President-elect and Trump's brother Bob since the 1980s, is close to others on Trump’s transition team and has had preliminary discussions about the ambassador position, sources told WEEI.com’s Rob Bradford.
Valentine, currently the athletic director of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., is also friendly with current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who, like Valentine, attended the University of Southern California.