It's all about delivery, and Buchholz's is off

It's all about delivery, and Buchholz's is off
May 22, 2014, 2:30 pm
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BOSTON - The curious case of Clay Buchholz continues for the Red Sox.

Buchholz, who swears there's nothing physically wrong with him on the mound, looked anything but right for the Red Sox Wednesday night.

He was knocked around for 5 runs on 9 hits in 4.2 innings. It's the third straight poor performance for Buchholz, who has given up 29 hits and 13 earned runs over that span.

But Buchholz has struggled throughout most of the season, save for a few good outings. He's given up 6 earned runs in three starts this season, two of which came in April.

After Wednesday night's disaster, John Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves stayed late and tried to sort out the mess.

"Well we spent quite a bit of time here last night [watching film of Buchholz]," Farrell said. "And there are some things that we need to work on from a delivery standpoint. Physically, there's no complaints. There's no restrictions, and yet we've got get him into a position in his delivery more consistently."

Farrell and Nieves met again Thursday morning before then meeting with Buchholz.

Buchholz struggled mightily in 2008, but Farrell said that was more his going through a "transformation" phase from a flyball/strikeout pitcher to a groundball pitcher. While Farrell acknowledges adjustments need to be made in Buchholz's delivery, it's not a drastic transformation like that year.

But with Buchholz's mechanics off, he's thinking too much on the mound.

"I've been messing with a couple of different things," Buchholz said after Wednesday's game. "It's hard to go out there and pitch a major league baseball game and think about mechanics. That's not where you work on them; you work on them in the bullpen, and that's what I've tried to do the last couple of days leading up."

Speaking on WEEI earlier on Thursday, Red Sox GM Ben Cherington noted that Buchholz is best when he's mixing his pitches, when he has confidence in all of his pitches - including the changeup and the curveball. Lately, it's been fastball and cutter that he's overly relied on, and hitters have jumped on that.

"It’s something that we’re actively trying to figure out and he's trying to figure out." Cherington told WEEI. "I think one of the things that’s made Clay so unique and special when he’s been at his best is that he has had multiple weapons, and when he has that he’€™s very unpredictable. He has a bunch of different weapons that move in all different directions. When he has most of those working, he’s very difficult to hit because hitters can’t stay in any one spot.

"The only thing we see is that those multiple offerings have not been as consistent. Sometimes it's the changeup. Sometimes it's the curveball...It's really the mix that has made him go so good and so dominant at times. There are some guys who can rely on fastball command to be effective. That's not Clay. He's working hard and we've got to help him find that mix. When he can start to put more thoughts in the hitters' mind about what's coming, then that's when we'll start to see some better results."

Farrell said just as much on Thursday, stressing the importance of Buchholz changing speeds in an at-bat to throw off the hitter.

"What we're striving for is one of the two - curveball or changeup - to create some velocity separation and disrupt timing," Farrell said. "Right now when he's pressed to make a pitch he has gone to a pitch that's been hard in velocity whether it's fastball or cutter. So we've got to get back to the point of being able to change speeds more consistently, and for strikes, not just to throw it for the sake of throwing it."

In 2013, Buchholz threw 108.1 innings and gave up just 23 runs. That was good for an ERA of 1.74. This year he's thrown 47.0 innings and has already given up 37 runs, 14 more than all of last season. His ERA is a whopping 6.32, which is second-worst in the Majors. He's also given up 7 home runs, compared to 4 all of last season.

"He knows he's better," Farrell said. "He's disappointed in what's taken place so far. There have been glimpses or there have been individual games where it's been more Clay-like, but he knows he's got to improve."