BOSTON - Maybe it wasn't a warning shot, but more of an idle observation. Maybe it wasn't a challenge at all.
But what John Farrell had to say Sunday afternoon about Clay Buchholz was, if nothing else, noteworthy.
In assessing his team's play in the just-completed first month of the season, Farrell noted that the starting rotation, after a particularly rough beginning, had stabilized of late.
With one exception, that is.
"We've got to get Clay going, particularly," Farrell said. "He's an important part of our rotation, an important part of this team. We've got to get him on track." Buchholz is winless in his five starts, with an 0-3 mark and an inflated ERA of 6.51. He's given up a minimum of five earned runs in each start and has yet to pitch through the seventh inning.
Farrell noted that the issue has been less about quality of stuff and more about his aggressiveness - or lack thereof.
"There are times,'' Farrell said, "when we've seen Clay execute pitches with, I think, a greater conviction to the pitch. There are other times where maybe he's pitched away from contact a little bit too much and not attacked the strike zone. To me, there comes an attitude on the mound that's got to be prevailing."
The Sox aren't far from welcoming back to starters. Eduardo Rodriguez, who tweaked his knee in early March, is set to make his second rehab start for Pawtucket Tuesday and could conceivably return five days after that. At most, Rodriguez will be ready with one more additional outing.
Next up is Joe Kelly, who is on the DL with a shoulder impingement. Kelly has thrown some bullpen sessions and could begin a rehab assignment later in the week.
That will lead to the Sox making some tough decisions in the coming weeks. It had been widely assumed that knuckleballer Steven Wright would be he most vulnerable starter, but Wright is 2-2 with a 1.37 ERA in four outings.
Asked to assess where the Sox within the context of the division, Farrell said: "We're probably searching to shore up areas that are in need, and that first starts with making the necessary adjustments with the guys that are on our roster now. Not that we're going to make wholesale changes. Like I said, we've got to get Clay going. That's a big improvement that we could make."