Buchholz makes quick work of Twins

Buchholz makes quick work of Twins
March 7, 2013, 5:45 pm
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FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was a brisk, three-inning stint for Clay Buchholz in the Red Sox' 12-5 victory over the split-squad Twins Thursday afternoon at Hammond Stadium. Making just his second Grapefruit League start -- both against Minnesota -- after being delayed by a hamstring strain at the start of camp, Buchholz went three scoreless innings, giving up two hits with no walks and four strikeouts.

Buchholz worked quickly from pitch to pitch, batter to batter. He threw 38 pitches, 31 for strikes, including first-pitch strikes to 8 of the 11 batters he faced.

“Much better tempo,” said manager John Farrell. “He was down in the zone in the first and third innings. And the fact that he goes out and pitches three solid innings gets him right back in line with everybody else in the rotation and kind of puts all the hamstring issue behind him.”

The tempo Buchholz set and his ability to throw first-pitch strikes went hand in hand.

“It’s the same thing,” said the right-hander. “If you have feel for your fastball command, that’s key.  But If you’re not throwing strikes with your fastball, it’s hard. Obviously, you can’t throw a first-pitch strike if you don’t throw a strike with your fastball. And that’s where the tempo comes in for me. Whenever I feel good on the mound, feel comfortable, I feel like my tempo’s always been better. But we try to make it a point to even when I miss with my pitches, to get the ball, get back on the mound, and regroup and go from there, rather than taking my  time and thinking about it.”

His tempo had been a point of emphasis in his side work, with the Sox keeping a stopwatch on him in the bullpen trying to limit him to about 15 seconds between pitches.

“We tried to shorten down the amount of time in between pitches, not so much his delivery, just getting back up on the mound and delivering a pitch,” Farrell said. “And it was noticeably different today and another thing that he did in the bullpen of late. What we’ve seen is kind of a refinement of his overall command and strike throwing and it carried out today.”

Buchholz needed just eight pitches (seven strikes) in both the first and third innings. He faced more of a challenge in the second inning, needing 22 pitches to get through five batters. With one out, Trevor Plouffe and Eduardo Escobar hit consecutive singles, putting runners on the corners. But Buchholz got Jeff Clement to pop out to first baseman Mike Napoli in foul territory, then struck out Brandon Boggs looking to end the inning.

“Today I felt like I had pretty good command of everything I threw,” Buchholz said.  “I threw everything. I’ve thrown everything in both starts, I was just more on point with it today. Able to throw some curveballs back to back. When I missed with one, able to go back to it and throw it for a strike with confidence in it, and the cutters, fastballs and a couple of changeups.”

Getting into his normal five-day routine after the first start, getting into a starter’s regularity, helped coming into this start.

“The five-day routine, it’s a key thing for starters nowadays,“ he said. “You’re able to work out like you’re working out during the season, and you’re not having to shuffle upper body and lower body workouts, going on three days’ rest. That’s a big things for me personally.”
 
And now that he’s shown what he can do in his regular routine, with a crisp tempo, his point of emphasis for his next start will be to continue doing that.

“Keep the same thing going,” he said.  “Keep the pace of the game going even when things get a little bit rocky in the middle of some innings, just being able to get the ball, get back on the rubber, and throw my pitch with conviction and confidence.”