FORT MYERS, Fla. – Clay Buchholz pitched a two-inning simulated game Tuesday morning. The right-hander threw 20 pitches in both innings to left-handed hitter Mike Carp and righty Mike Napoli, who each got four turns at the plate.
Buchholz was delayed after suffering a right hamstring strain on Feb. 12, the first day of official workouts for pitchers and catchers. Tuesday’s outing was his second simulated game after a two-inning, 37-pitch outing on Saturday. He is expected to make his Grapefruit League debut Saturday when the Red Sox travel to the Twins.
"It was good," Buchholz said. "Felt more comfortable. I've felt comfortable since I started throwing out of the wind-up. I started to find a balance point there at the end to get a good feel for it. Last 10 pitches I stayed on line without jumping toward home plate."
The righthander didn't think his hamstring would affect him going forward.
"The good thing is we have two weeks extra here this year and it wasn't something that set me back two weeks," Buchholz said. "I missed my first time in rotation but I can deal with that. It was unfortunate but I didn't miss much. I feel good running. Zero percent I feel anything while throwing."
Manager John Farrell, pitching coach Juan Nieves, former Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, along with some front office personnel were among those watching Buchholz’s outing on Tuesday. Nieves was pleased with what he saw.
“Very good,” Nieves said. “With him his biggest things we talk about are staying on the hallway, staying on that direction to the plate, not veering off to the left, controlling the leg lift, aggressive rhythm and tempo. Staying on the hallway is very important. When he does that, when his direction is right, every pitch is down, executed.
“It’s amazing. He can adjust from pitch to pitch very quickly. He commands all his pitches. He felt much better, sharper today. We’re going in the right direction because he should feel that way. So it’s a feather in his cap to have him back. It almost fits now for him like a regular spring training. He’s going to have six starts and we’ll have him out there six times, according to how he feels and his health. He should be ready, there’s no reason why not, be ready for the season.”
Buchholz will likely go two innings on Saturday against the Twins. Nieves will be looking for the right-hander to continue his progression.
“A really sharp delivery, staying within himself, and executing the pitches he can, pitching down in the zone. That’s his strength,” Nieves said. “A lot of groundballs. He’s a big-time groundball pitcher with great sink. Great feel for all his pitches, primarily down. That’s the most important thing, to see him down, [catcher’s] glove and under. It’s great and for him to walk out on the mound healthy. What more can we expect?”
For his part, Buchholz is itching to get started.
"I'm getting nervous for others getting out there like [John Lackey] and [Ryan Dempster]," Buchholz said. "I'm ready. It feels like I'm ready to get out there."