Buchholz takes big step forward

761092.jpg

Buchholz takes big step forward

BOSTON -- It wasn't Clay Buchholz' longest outing of the season, but it was his best.

The righty picked up his team-leading fourth win of the season while allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits and three walks in 6.1 innings on Friday night to lead the Red Sox to a 7-5 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night at Fenway Park.

The win snapped a three-game losing skid for Boston, while Buchholz snapped a skid of six-consecutive starts in which he allowed five or more earned runs.

"In my humble opinion, he had better movement tonight, than I've seen him with," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the win.

After getting out of a first-inning jam, Buchholz cruised through to the seventh inning. Entering that seventh inning, Buchholz allowed just one run on six hits and a pair of walks.

That one run gave the Indians a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, and for a moment, it looked as if Buchholz was going to continue that streak of allowing at least five runs a game.

After recording the first two outs in the top of the first, Buchholz walked Asdrubal Cabrera and then let up a two-out single to Travis Hafner. Cabrera then scored on Carlos Santana's single down the right-field line.

Buchholz then hit Shin-Soo Choo with a pitch to load the bases. The sudden turn of events forced Valentine to make a mound visit of his own.

"I didn't want him to let that game get away from him because of anything other than him being as good as he can possibly be," said Valentine when asked what he said to Buchholz in that mound visit.

"I just wanted Clay to understand that I believed in him, and everybody behind him thought he was a good pitcher. Prove it to the guys in front of him."

"It was good," said Buchholz. "He basically just came out there and said, 'You know what, you need to get your stuff right and go after these guys and get these guys out so that we can get into the dugout and win a ballgame.'"

Buchholz got the next batter -- Michael Brantley -- to ground out to end the inning, and it was an out that he said gave him a big-time confidence booster, which led to only four Indians hits and no runs in the next five innings.

"He was breaking left-handers' bats. We haven't seen that," said Valentine. "They were hitting it off the end. He was getting in on them, snapping them in half. It indicates to me that his ball had that action that we needed to have for him to be successful."

Buchholz said that he had never pitched to a lineup that featured all lefties, and because of that, he called the experience "mentally draining," and the hard-hitting lineup forced him to have just his second-career game with no strikeouts.

But Buchholz was able to get through to the seventh inning, where he loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. Rich Hill came in to relieve Buchholz after throwing 111 pitches. He and Andrew Miller were on the mound to allow the next three runs that were all added to Buchholz' stat line.

"Now he can look at his record of four wins, and say that he's really building on something," said Valentine. "He's coming off a good outing, next time he walks out there."

Not just good, his best of 2012.

Ramirez bothered by right shoulder more than last year

Ramirez bothered by right shoulder more than last year

BOSTON — Hanley Ramirez on Wednesday afternoon acknowledged his shoulders are bothering him more this year than last year.

In specific, it’s the right (throwing) shoulder that’s bothersome, he said to CSNNE, noting it just doesn’t move as he wants it to — rotating his arm as he spoke. Asked how that happened, how it worsened, he said it was in spring training that he thinks he pushed it too hard.

On the positive side, Ramirez said his shoulders are improving.

"Honestly, yeah, it's feeling better now," Ramirez told a group of reporters. "It's started feeling better now than early in the year. I can use the top hand and drop a little bit the head of the bat. I was losing that. I was talking to [hitting coaches Chili Davis and Victor Rodriguez] about that. I've got to be able to use that top hand. Like Jim Rice."

Ramirez, who seems to always want to be playful in his interactions with the media, appeared surprised to learn that he was not hitting lefties well so far this year. He’s 5-for-35 against them.

Ramirez was out the lineup for a third straight game Wednesday, but took batting practice on the field and also took grounders at first base. As batting practice ended, he spoke to a group of reporters coming off the field.

"What am I hitting against lefties right now?” Ramirez asked in a response to a question about how he was feeling vs. southpaws.

It was low, he was told. He waited while a reporter used his phone to look up the specifics for him.

“Is it really? So it’s not me. I've got to get going because I crush lefties. It can't happen,” Ramirez said in the group. "You're kidding me. It took you long enough to tell me that. I didn't know that for real. So OK, after this conversation, let's see what's going to happen now. I'll say it. Yeah. Bring it. OK? I didn't know, I swear. Interesting. Thank you.”

Red Sox manager John Farrell wasn’t sure if Ramirez’s struggles vs. lefties was related to his shoulders. 

“Because if there’s the need or the tendency for Hanley to start his swing early because he might not feel as loose or reactive, as he might otherwise, if a left-hander’s going to sink the ball away from him or keep the ball on the outside of the plate and that early commitment might cause you to pull off some pitches, that’s one possibility,” Farrell said. “But I can’t say that’s the absolute sole reason.”

The Sox still believe Ramirez is healthy enough to contribute well.

“Without being in his body, and knowing what he’s feeling, you know, if you watch the number of hours he puts in for the shoulder maintenance, that’s real,” Farrell said. “All we can evaluate is his feedback and how he swings the bat with either the plate coverage or the aggressiveness and the ability to impact the baseball. And there has been stretches of that. I think he would be the first to admit, would like for it to be more consistent.”

Farrell was asked a bunch of questions about Ramirez on Wednesday afternoon in the usual pre-game press conference, including whether he’s difficult to manage. If that’s the case — and it sure seems so —  Farrell did not let on.

"With individuals you take the added time needed to sit down and talk things through and get a sense of where each individual player is," Farrell said. "I wouldn’t say Hanley is different than other guys in that clubhouse."

Ramirez did very well in the second half last year and was optimistic.

“It's coming along,” he said. “I think second half's coming and I'm ready for that. ... Just one click and you go from there. Like I said, I'm not going to stop working. I'm going to get hot.”

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

Drellich: Pomeranz lessens heat on Dombrowski's trade history

BOSTON — Drew Pomeranz is helping out Dave Dombrowski’s balance sheet in Boston.

The Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel trades have been awesome — beyond awesome, even. The Tyler Thornburg deal looks like a disaster that, maybe someday, Dombrowski will acknowledge rather than sidestep. The Carson Smith deal has produced, if nothing else, no gain. The Fernando Abad deal has not hurt the Sox, and he’s had some decent moments.

But the Pomeranz trade with the Padres, for just top pitching prospect Anderson Espinoza, stood as the most controversial of Dealer Dave’s moves until the past couple months. Now, the Cult of Travis Shaw has slowly made folks forget about Espinoza and the complicated set of circumstances that surrounded that trade.

“Rescind” is something you’re hearing less and less. 

It’s remarkable what a 2.70 ERA in a 40-inning, seven-start stretch can do. Pomeranz is looking like a lot shinier these days, particularly after Tuesday night, when he came back out despite a rain delay of more than an hour in a 9-2 win over the Twins.

From the day that 40-inning stretch began, May 25, through Tuesday, only four qualified starters posted a better ERA in the American League: Corey Kluber (1.29), Jason Vargas (2.27), Jordan Montgomery (2.52) and Mike Pelfrey (2.64).

For comparison: Chris Sale is 10th in that stretch, at 3.54. Rick Porcello has 6.08 ERA in the same time.

Realistically, where the Sox stood last season, they needed Pomeranz. He was healthy enough to throw. That’s the reality everyone who wanted the deal undone always undersold: the back of the rotation was crumbling. 

But that was just one layer of the deal.

The Padres did not provide as much medical information as they should have, and the Sox stuck with Pomeranz despite the opportunity to look elsewhere.

Espinoza hasn’t pitched for a Padres minor league affiliate yet this season. He’s playing catch from flat ground as he comes back from a forearm injury, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported recently. 

Trades, to this observer, are typically best evaluated by reviewing the process behind them — which is to say, by looking back at the information was available at the time the deal was made. And at the time, it was known that the Sox were paying for Pomeranz beyond just last season's second half. They were paying for a controllable arm who could help out the rotation this year too.

Dombrowski may well have acquired Pomeranz at his peak value, which is unsurprising. But what mattered most was whether the team believed Pomeranz could contribute effectively beyond 2016. That, once they had all the health information, whether they properly evaluated what it would mean for his future.

It looked bad when Pomeranz started the season on the disabled list. He had a stem-cell injection in his forearm in the winter, too. There wasn’t much to hang your hat on at the start of April. 

Realistically, Pomeranz probably isn’t 100 percent right now. Even within the relative world of pro baseball — where no one is ever 100 percent — Pomeranz is probably further from it than most. 

But he's powered through. Pomeranz’s attitude might actually fit Boston better than most realize. He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

He also is, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, a pitcher with a high ceiling in terms of ability (if not innings).

How Pomeranz holds up is to be seen. But the team’s judgment that he would have value beyond last season, a value worth surrendering Espinoza for, is looking better and better.