PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- It was only nine months ago that pitcher Clay Buchholz was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back, but as Opening Day draws closer, the Red Sox righthander isn't giving the injury a second thought.
"I've been past (thinking about it) for a while,'' said Buchholz after allowing a run on four hits over five innings in the Sox' victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. "There haven't been any (negative) responses (from the back). That's when I would back off a bit, but I haven't felt anything in a negative way.''
Catcher Jarrod Salatalamacchia is amazed that Buchholz made such a relatively quick comeback.
"The most impressive thing is, after the injury he had, I'd be a little scared about just letting it go,'' said Saltalamaacchia, "but he's been letting it go from (the beginning). And the commmand he's got right now, this early in spring. . . . I remember last year, that was his big struggle -- the command and getting through big innings."
"I'm glad to see him going out there, being healthy and pitching well.''
Buchholz featured his curveball more than usual in Sunday's outing "just to get a feel for it because when it's working, it's a good pitch for me.''
He also threw about 15 cut fastballs, a pitch he often sprinkles in when he's behind in the count. Whatever he threw, he was routinely around the strike zone, with 76 pitches, 58 for strikes.
Buchholz probably has three more spring starts and he plans to use those outings to work on getting ahead of hitters.
"I want to stay consistent with 'strike 1,' '' he said. "I felt like I was really good with 'strike 1' for the most today. It doesn't necessarily make the game easier, but it makes it
flow better whenever you're 0-and-1 instead of 1-and-0 and 2-and-0. That's been a big thing for me, even in my bullpens, spotting up my fastball early and throwing more of them. You're able to work off the fastball for other stuff.''