BOSTON With the struggles this season of Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, the Red Sox had begun to count on Clay Buchholz to be their ace. To get them wins.And why not? He entered Tuesdays game against the Angels with a record of 11-3, leading the staff in wins. In 13 starts since May 21, Buchholz was 7-1 with a 2.54 ERA, while the Sox were 10-3 in those games. In that stretch, he held opponents to a .217 batting average, .276 on-base percentage, and .356 slugging percentage. In 95 23 innings in that span, he had 68 strikeouts compared to 22 walks. Additionally, since the start of 2011, he was 9-2 in 18 starts after a loss. And, he had just one loss in his last 16 starts at Fenway Park since April 15, 2011, going 8-1 in that span, 6-1 this season. In five career starts against the Angels at Fenway, he was 4-1 with a 3.98 ERA.So, the question is: What happened to that guy?Buchholz lasted just 5 13 innings Tuesday night against the Angels. He matched career highs with seven earned runs allowed and 12 hits allowed. He was one shy of his career high with seven runs allowed. He also gave up a walk and a home run, with three strikeouts. He took the loss, falling to 11-4 as his ERA rose to 4.47.I thought Clay had pretty good stuff tonight, just they hit some good pitches, said manager Bobby Valentine. And he was in the middle of the plate with a couple of pitches and maybe a little higher than hes been normally. So it was all about location and probably he was missing his location.With the loss, Buchholz fell to 4-1 in five starts against the Angels since the beginning of the 2010 season. Before this game, he had given up just seven earned runs in 26 13 innings in that span.I think I made a couple of bad pitches and they hit them, said Buchholz. Im not really disappointed in anything.With seven earned runs, Buchholz matched the total of his previous five starts, spanning 39 innings, in which he was 3-0. The difference in this game?Balls left up in the zone, he said. Can't throw pitches consistently up there and expect to get away with it against a team like that. The other side of it, I thought I made a lot of good pitches that they got their bat to and found a hole for it. So I felt really good. Just too many pitches up and they made me pay for it, I guess.There was a couple of balls hit pretty hard but when you make pitches that are off the plate and they found a way to get a bat to it and get runs across the plate that way, it leaves a little bad taste in your mouth, for sure.Said one scout in attendance:The quality of Buchholzs pitches was good, but his usage of his pitches was questionable. He had some strange pitch sequences and did not use his fastball enough. He may be trying to throw too many different pitches, and may need to simplify his approach. The Angels had a solid approach at the plate and used the whole field well.Buchholz said he felt no additional pressure since becoming the de facto ace of the staff.No. I mean, I've just been going out there with the sole purpose of trying to get deep in the games and trying to get some quick outs here and there and try to get the team back in the dugout to get to the plate, he said. You could throw any of the other four guys we have out here and they could do the same thing that I've been doing. Its happened to be me for the last couple of weeks but anybody could take that.With the firing Monday of pitching coach Bob McClure, who was replaced by Randy Niemann, Buchholz is now working with his fourth pitching coach in three seasons. That turnover, he said, has not been a disruption.Not really, said Buchholz. I think all of them have been good to me. Ive had a pretty good relationship with all the pitching coaches weve had and I think theyre more there for guidance. If they see you doing something wrong over an extended period of time theyre the guys that sort of give you a little bit of notice and some direction on what you need to do but consistency is the key, especially with pitching. Youve got to be able to repeat deliveries and arm slot and everything and that comes with feel and that comes with confidence. So theyve all been good. Theyve all been around baseball for a long time so I dont see it being a problem.Buchholz was making the 100th appearance of his career and had a chance to earn his 47th career win. He would have been the first Sox pitcher with that many wins in his first 100 games since Roger Clemens had 56 in 1984-87. Instead, he falls to 6-2 with a 4.61 ERA at Fenway this season, while the Sox fall to 29-36.I dont think theres a rhyme or reason to the Sox struggles at home, he said. Its just the way its happening right now. I think a lot of guys are going up to the plate and thinking they have to do something right now and when you're losing thats just the way it goes. When you're winning you normally think about yourself and just go out there and hit and pitch. So its different for me, being here the last four or five years and always winning. So its a little bit different than everybody.You expect to play well at home. You expect to play everywhere but especially at home knowing that its sold out here every time we play here and its frustrating that it hasnt been going the way we want it to go. But youve got to find a way to get through it.
BOSTON -- Every year it seems like there are major issues or question marks to start spring training where the answers are up in the air.
In 2015, the Red Sox lacked an ace, had Hanley Ramirez moving to left field and Pablo Sandoval coming to town.
In 2016, Ramirez was moving back to the infield, but at a new position, and his bat was in question. Sandoval was coming off a year where he couldn’t hit his weight (he hit .245 and he last weighed in at 255 pounds). How would the starting rotation look after David Price?
This year, there seem to be three questions, but in a way, they’ve already been answered.
How will the Red Sox make up for David Ortiz’s absence?
Well, for one, the Red Sox have three Cy Young-caliber starting pitchers (Price, Chris Sale and Rick Porcello) in their rotation.
And two, Hanley Ramirez is coming off a career year with his highest career output in RBI (111) and second-highest home run total (30). And while Mitch Moreland isn’t the greatest hitter, he’s good for 20 or more home runs. Plus, it seems he’s holding a spot for a certain Red Sox prospect who’s bouncing back well from an injury.
Will Sandoval earn the starting third base job back?
The weight loss is a good sign, not only for the physical reasons, but it shows he’s mentally committed to being better.
“I’m not going to say [third base] resolved itself,” John Farrell told CSNNE.com, “but you know Panda’s done a very good job of committing to get himself in better shape and we’re looking forward to seeing that play to in spring training.”
Even if Panda can’t put it all together, Farrell told reporters before Thursday’s BBWAA dinner, both Brock Holt and Josh Rutledge would be competing for the job as well.
Holt as plan B -- in the infield? Who wouldn’t take that?
Who’s going to start at catcher?
Sandy Leon, Christian Vazquez and Blake Swihart each have their pros an cons.
Leon did it all last year, but went from hitting .383 in his first 39 games to .242 in his last 39.
Vazquez has Ivan Rodriguez-esque abilities behind the plate, but couldn’t keep the staff under control last year and cannot hit.
Swihart, who turns 25 April 3, is the youngest of the three, has the most potential at the plate, but is far and away the worst of the three defensively at the most important defensive position -- excluding pitcher -- on the field.
They all have their drawbacks, but they’ve all shown at some point why they can be the Red Sox starting catcher in the present and future.
Everywhere else, the Red Sox seem to be in a comfortable position as pitchers and catchers reporting to camp draws ever nearer.
“I think the fact that we’ve got veteran players that have done a great job in staying healthy [and] young players that are getting more establishing in their return, we’re in a pretty good place in terms of the overall status of our position player group,” Farrell told CSNNE.com.
And it seems some players are confident in the team’s options as they ready for camp.
“We’re looking good in a lot of areas,” shortstop Xander Bogaerts told CSNNE.com. “Especially the pitching staff, [since] we just got Chris Sale one of the best in the game.”
“Pablo’s definitely going to bounce back, especially with the weight he’s lost."
BOSTON -- “I didn’t feel that love after I made a pitching change in the sixth inning,” Terry Francona said after a 45-second standing ovation from Boston fans upon receiving the MLB Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA Thursday.
It’s without question the love for Francona runs deep in the city. Why wouldn’t it? He was the leader in breaking the 86-year old curse, and wound up winning another World Series title for Boston three years later.
Actually, he was more of a co-leader, working alongside the same person who won the MLB Executive of the Year honors from the BBWAA for 2016.
Theo Epstein -- who received an ovation 17 seconds shorter than Francona, but who’s counting -- reminisced about the Red Sox ownership group that took a chance on a young kid who wasn’t necessarily the ideal candidate to take over as GM of a team, but now that’s helped him build the Chicago Cubs into a winning franchise and establish a great working environment.
This October marks 13 years since the ’04 championship, 10 years since ’07 and six years since the pair left Boston. Without question they’ve left their mark on the city and forever changed Red Sox baseball.
And while the fans showed their undying gratitude for Francona with an ovation almost as long as his acceptance speech, the Indians manager recognized the favor the current Red Sox brass has done for him.
“I’d like to thank Dave Dombrowski and the Red Sox for getting Chris Sale the hell out of the Central Division,” Francona said.