DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Clay Buchholz's strong spring continued Friday with four shutout innings of the Toronto Blue Jays in a 3-1 victory for the Red Sox.
Buchholz allowed singles to the first two hitters he faced -- with Jose Reyes gunned down at second trying to stretch a single into a double -- then didn't give up another baserunner, retiring the next 11 hitters in a row.
"I thought he was in command for the four innings of work,'' said John Farrell. "He had three very good pitches working for him -- his curveball, cutter and fastball. I thought he had better stuff than five days ago. You see his velocity starting to climb a little bit and later action to his secondary pitches.
"But more importantly, he pitched very comfortably with very good stuff.''
Buchholz was at 88-90 in his first outing, but was routinely between 91-92 with his fastball on Friday.
"I'm not going to say I'm surprised,'' said Farrell of the uptick. "But last time out, he was 89-90-91, today he's 91-92 mph pretty consistently. So it shows you that his arm strength is building and in a matter of five days, there's been a sizeable step forward.
"He's very much moving in the right direction.''
"From the first time out until now, I've able to get better as far as the innings progression,'' said Buchholz, who has allowed a run on just five hits in eight spring innings to date, "I was able to be efficient with two-seam and four-seam fastballs today. A couple of times, when I fell behind, I was able to come back and pound the strike zone.''
Buchholz noted that while happy with his velocity -- and hinting that he had more to reach back for if necessary -- he was particularly satisfied with his ablility to locate with precision.
Like some other fellow veteran starters, the Red Sox are bringing Buchholz along slowly this spring, in recognition of last fall's demanding post-season and, in his case, the shoulder woes he battled last summer.
"I haven't had any setbacks physically,'' he said, "so I feel like I could go about every day under a normal routine, a normal schedule. But given the past couple of months of my season, they knew coming in I wasn't exactly where I was at in past years. We're keeping an eye on it, but I've told them, every day I come in, I feel fine.''
Buchholz's changeup, which is among his best weapons, is something that hasn't been mastered yet.
"I haven't quite got a grasp on it,'' he said. "It's better that it's down (in the zone instead of) up. But I haven't quite gotten a feel for it and that's a pitch that I use a lot. I wanted to work on it a little bit more today, but when you spike it in the dirt, it's a pitch that's not getting any attempted swings and you're putting yourself behind in the count.
"But as long as I keep throwing my fastball to both sides of the plate, I feel the changeup will come. It's just going to take a little work on the side, and hopefully, next time out, I'll be able to refine it a little bit more."