Buchholz: Fenway sleepover not to blame for poor start

Buchholz: Fenway sleepover not to blame for poor start
April 21, 2014, 4:30 pm
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BOSTON -- It's not that he's hurt. And it's not that he slept at Fenway Park on Sunday night.

Clay Buchholz said that the reason he lasted just 2 1/3 innings in his team's 7-6 loss to the Orioles on Patriots Day -- his shortest outing ever at home -- was because he's still building up his arm strength.

The 6-foot-3 righty's velocity is down, which affects the movement upon which his pitches so heavily rely to be effective.

"I think it all starts with arm strength," he said. "Arm strength creates movement with the pitches that I throw. A couple of them are flat right now. Sinker's getting some sink, but not on every pitch that I throw."

He allowed six runs on seven hits and a walk, and he threw 55 pitches in the loss. Buchholz was adamant that the 11 a.m. start time on Monday, while unusual, wasn't to blame for his performance.

He, along with Mike Napoli and John Lackey, made use of a sleep room at Fenway Park designed to house players during circumstances like Sunday's, when the team played late into the night and needed to be back at the park early for Monday's game.

"It's awkward," Buchholz said of the start time. "That's probably the only game I've ever pitched at 11 o'clock. I don't know . . . Me sleeping here had nothing to do with it. I threw some decent pitches that got hit. They got a good lineup over there so you definitely have to maintain your execution with each pitch that you throw. If you don't, you're going to get hurt."

Buchholz had been given the option by the Red Sox to watch Sunday night's game from home if he felt it would allow him to get more rest for Monday morning.

"That was presented to him," manager John Farrell said. "The choice was to stay here and spend the night here."

Farrell said that kind of decision -- whether it's for a pitcher to watch a game from home or to travel ahead of the team for back-to-back games -- is always left up to the player.

"We look at that similar to a late-night travel," Farrell said. "We give an option to the player. Some guys rather stay with the team, and we don't force it on them."

Buchholz said he made the decision to stay at Fenway because he would not have been able to sleep until about 2 a.m. whether he was home or not. Sleeping at the park allowed him to skip the travel time to Yawkey Way in the morning.

"That's just like if it was an eight o'clock ESPN game and then flying out to Toronto. I don't fly out early," Buchholz said. "I'm not gonna go to bed the exact same time I get to the hotel anyways.

"The way that the schedule is for us, especially playing night games, it's hard to go to bed before 2 a.m. That's sort of what I add it up to. I didn't think it was any different last night."

Buchholz looked sharp in his first two innings on Monday, walking one and striking out two. But he didn't get out of the third inning when he gave up five straight singles and seven total hits. Each of the first four batters he faced in the third came around to score and he saw six runs score in all.

When Baltimore catcher Steve Clevenger hit an RBI double and third baseman Jonathan Schoop followed up with an RBI single, Buchholz's day was done. Sox reliever Burke Badenhop got a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and limit the damage to six runs.

"Where he needed a strikeout in that third inning to record an out and possibly shut down that threat, that was elusive today," Farrell said of Buchholz. "They notoriously swing early in the count. When he mis-located on a couple of pitches, they were able to get some base hits."

Buchholz was coming off of two consecutive starts in which it appeared he might be rounding into form. Against both the Yankees and White Sox, he pitched six innings, allowed two earned runs and struck out six.

Monday was a far cry from those quality starts.

"You don't want the start time to be an excuse, but it was encouraging that the last couple starts that he was coming off of," Farrell said. "Felt like there was every reason to think that there'd be as good as stuff, and the trend he was showing, that he'd have a pickup from the last couple. But just the lack of finish to his stuff was the difference."

Farrell insisted there was nothing wrong with Buchholz physically.

"No. He doesn't speak of any" physical issues, Farrell said. "In all the physical testing that we do with all of our pitchers, it doesn't indicate any deficit. So nothing present physically."

Buchholz also said he wasn't hurt. He did admit, however, that his arm strength still needs to be built up.

"Not quite there," he said. "It feels like it's getting better. Wasn't there late in the game today. Later in the past two games, if I wanted to reach back, 92, 93 [mph] is there. But that usually comes pretty easy.

"Struggling with that a little bit right now. It'll come together. Still pretty early. Still have a lot of time left in this first half to try to pull it all together and work from there."

It was reported earlier this season that Buchholz had been dealing with symptoms of a "dead arm" -- something pitchers sometimes feel during spring training as their workload increases.

Buchholz explained that his spring training regimen -- which was dialed back after the 2013 season in which he missed half of the season and pitched sparingly in October -- couldn't have gone any differently.

"I don't think I really had a choice with starting differently," Buchholz said, "given [I was] out for the second half of last year, threw a couple playoff games and then a World Series game. My body needed some time to not throw. I think that was the only way there I could go about it."

As he waits for his arm strength to get back to 100 percent, Buchholz hopes his stuff, his effectiveness and his confidence will climb with it.

"Hard to go out there and be confident whenever you're getting hit around," he said.