McAdam: It's all coming together for Buchholz

McAdam: It's all coming together for Buchholz
May 2, 2013, 11:15 am
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TORONTO -- Clay Buchholz has the best record of any starter in the game and the lowest ERA. Catcher David Ross says the reason isn't that complicated.
     
"He can execute four to five pitches on both sides of the plate," marveled Ross after Buchholz tossed seven shutout innings Wednesday to improve to 6-0. "There's not many other guys like that in the big leagues. That's why he's doing what he's doing. He's that good."
     
Ross is new to the Red Sox and still learning about the team's pitchers. Thanks to his repertoire of pitches and his ability to command them, Buchholz has more options than most.
     
"You don't see too many guys throwing right-on-right changeups, to the heart of the order," said Ross. "And he's doing it in 0-and-0 counts. That stuff doesn't happen. He can really pitch."
     
The numbers back up that contention. Buchholz sports a tidy 1.01 ERA with a WHIP of .963. And even though Buchholz has evolved into more of a pitch-to-contact style pitcher, he's averaging 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings, the best ratio of his career.
     
Against a strong Toronto lineup Wednesday, Buchholz cruised. He didn't allow a hit until the third inning, then didn't allow another until the seventh.
     
In seven innings, he allowed just five baserunners.
     
"He was in command, control, for the entire seven innings out there," gushed John Farrell. "He had good secondary stuff to go along with a fastball that he located consistently throughout the night. He continues to pitch with a lot of confidence."
     
Unlike a year ago, when Buchholz appeared tentative at times and unsure whether he could fully extend himself in his delivery after suffering a stress fracture to his lower back in 2011, Buchholz is pitching with determination and belief in himself.
     
The seeds were planted in spring training when Buchholz experienced success.
     
"I just have more confidence right now," explained Buchholz. "It was better coming out of spring with a couple of good outings under your belt. I couldn't really pinpoint one thing that I needed to improve (this year). Knowing that I had my pitches working in spring, there was less pressure on me to say, 'OK, I've got to fix this now before the season starts,' because I basically already had it going.
     
"I just tried to ride the wave through spring training and carry it over to the regular season. So far I feel like I've done a good job."
     
Historically good, actually. Buchholz's 1.01 ERA after six starts is the best for a Red Sox starter to open a season since Roger Clemens (0.71) in 1991.
     
It helps that Buchholz regards the mound in the Rogers Centre as the best in the American League. In his career, Buchholz sports a 1.49 ERA there, best of any active pitcher with 55 or more innings in Toronto.
     
But the opponent or venue hasn't seemed to matter for Buchholz. Wherever he is, whomever he's facing, he's been dominant this season.
     
"It's fun pitching good," he said. "There's going to be bumps in the road, there are going to be starts where you don't have your best stuff and you get hit around a little bit. But I'm trying to ride the wave as long as it's there."
     
Ross remembers Buchholz from the catcher's brief stint here in 2008 when Buchholz was just 23 and hadn't established himself.
     
"His stuff was always good," recalled Ross. "He just hadn't put it all together yet. That's part of this game. There's a lot of talent out there, but figuring out how to use your talent is one of the toughest things in the game."
     
At 28, in his seventh year in the big leagues, Buchholz seemingly has figured it all out.