Buchholz still working out the kinks on the mound

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Buchholz still working out the kinks on the mound

MINNEAPOLIS -- Clay Buchholz, who has a 9.00 ERA after three starts, has been working on fine-tuning things on the side, hopeful that he can do a better job at keeping the ball down in the strike zone than he has in his first few outings.

"It's a work in progress," said Buchholz. "It's all release-point related. Once you find the release point, I think the changeup will come into effect. That's been up, too. When my four-seamer and two-seamer is down, usually my changeup's down because it's basically the same pitch with a little different grip.

"Once I get to that point and throw some good pitches and get out of the couple of innings without giving up any runs, I think it will (come around)."

Indeed, Buchholz has struggled in the early going of all three starts this season. He gave up four runs in the first and another in the second in his first outing, April 8 in Detroit.

In his next start, against Tampa Bay on April 14, he was again tagged for four runs in the first and another run in the third. Finally, last Friday against the Yankees, he was nicked for a run in the first and two more in the third.

Buchholz had a side session with pitching coach Bob McClure Monday and was satisfied with the progress made.

A particular focus was working on his changeup, which he's had difficulty finding a feel for.

"My changeup's always been a pitch that I've been able to throw 2-and-0, 3-and-0, 3-and-1," said Buchholz. "I don't have that confidence in it right now to go out and throw it like I have in the past. That's what I've been working on the last few weeks."

"I thought he had a great bullpen yesterday," said manager Bobby Valentine. "In his last game, obviously he centered a lot of balls but he also threw a lot of quality pitches. We've got to get that consistent quality, down in the zone. When he's down, he's pretty effective. Very effective."

Buchholz, of course, missed the final 3 12 months of last season with a lower back stress fracture and he acknowledged Tuesday that he's still trying to overcome the "rust factor."

"Yeah, I think there's some rust, even when you don't think there's going to be," he said. "There's always the hesitation going into a game, not really knowing what to expect -- not physically, but mentally -- where you're not part of something for a while.

"There's a couple of guys in the game right now coming off injuries who are off to a little rougher start than they expected. It all goes hand-in-hand. You know you're going to have some ups and downs and you've got to figure out a way to get through it."

Merloni: Pablo Sandoval is the key to the bottom of Red Sox order

Merloni: Pablo Sandoval is the key to the bottom of Red Sox order

The guys on The Baseball Show discuss Pablo Sandoval lighting it up in spring training and if he could continue that in the regular season.

Sale hurls five shutout innings, Sandoval has two hits as Sox romp, 7-2

Sale hurls five shutout innings, Sandoval has two hits as Sox romp, 7-2

Chris Sale threw five shutout innings and Pablo Sandoval continued his torrid spring with two more hits as the Red Sox routed the Twins, 7-2, Sunday at the Twins' Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

Red Sox-Twins box score

Sale allowed six hits, with one walk and six strikeouts, in his 91-pitch outing. Manager John Farrell had told reporters before the game that Sale was scheduled to throw between 95 and 100 pitches. He has 26 strikeouts and 2 walks in 21 spring-training innings.

Sandoval lifted his exhibition average to .370 with a 2-for-3 performance, which included a double.

The Red Sox also got home runs from Christian Vazquez, Andrew Benintendi and Steve Selsky as they rallied from a 1-0 deficit with three runs in the seventh inning and four in the eighth.