BOSTON - The timing couldn't have been worse. On the weekend he is anointed staff leader by the Red Sox following the departure of Jake Peavy, Jon Lester and John Lackey, Clay Buchholz spent Sunday night showing the younger pitchers in the rotation what not to do.
Do not, for instance, give back the lead to the opposition immediately after your teammates provide you with one.
Do not, under any circumstances, do it twice in the same game.
Do not be so inefficient on the mound to the point where you need 114 pitches just to get through five innings.
And do not make the opponents' job any easier by issuing five walks.
Buchholz did all of those things Sunday in an 8-7 loss to the New York Yankees. The loss actually went to Craig Breslow, who gave up a tie-breaking solo homer to Brett Gardner in the top of the sixth.
But Buchholz was to blame for this one.
"Pretty frustrating,'' concluded Buchholz of blowing two three-run leads. "I don't know how to explain it. But definitely frustrating.''
Asked what got away from him in his five innings of laborious pitching,
Buchholz responded: "Everything. Command. Didn't have a feel for much of anything. Second start in a row where the walks killed me.''
In his first five outings after coming off the disabled list, Buchholz issued just one walk in 35 1/3 innings. In the three outings since that run, however, he's issued 13 walks in 16 innings.
"Over the last three or four games, the walks have played a key part in the runs we've allowed,'' said John Farrell, "and that was the case again tonight.''
Sunday night marked the second straight start in which he's allowed seven runs.
Asked how important it was for him to put the horrid start behind him, Buchholz answered with candor: "I've felt like that a lot last year. I just go back to work tomorrow. It's been a frustrating year for me individually and obviously the organization, it's definitely not the way we want to go out there and wear the Red Sox uniform and not perform on any given night.
"A lot of that's on my shoulders, not picking up the weight I needed to pick up during the season.''
Farrell said he's noticed a tendency on Buchholz's part to "pitch a little too fine, that's caused him to fall behind in the count. Mechanically, he may be running away from his arm a little bit that's causing some pitches to be up to the arm side. But still, it's the overall pitch mix and command (issues).''
Buchholz insisted that the trades which rocked the Red Sox clubhouse Thursday didn't change his approach or serve as a distraction.
"Nothing different,'' he said. "My mindset's always the same, to go out and try to compete and keep the team in the game. Obviously, I didn't do either of those tonight. It's not been a distraction in any kind of way for me. It's a different group of guys, but the guys we've added are just as capable of doing what the guys who left were doing. They just sort of find a way to do it.''
For the time being, Buchholz has to find a way himself to turn things around. Forget for a minute that he's assumed the role of rotation leader, Buchholz has less than two months to salvage, at least a little, what has been by far his worst season in the big leagues.