Strong outing, but no win for Buchholz


Strong outing, but no win for Buchholz

BOSTON -- Through the first month of the season, Clay Buchholz proclaimed himself the only pitcher in Major League Baseball who was complaining about wins.

He went 3-1 in five starts in April, but had an ERA of 8.69, and hadn't allowed less than five runs in any of those outings. But he was getting enough offensive support to get him wins.

In his last two starts against the rival Tampa Bay Rays, it's been the opposite. Buchholz has been at his best, but in those two starts, he's 0-1.

Alfredo Aceves blew it for him on Sunday at Fenway Park. Buchholz finished the game having allowed just two runs on eight hits and a walk, while striking out a season-best six batters.

When Buchholz left the mound after the top of the seventh, the Red Sox trailed 2-0. But thanks to Adrian Gonzalez' heroic three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh, Buchholz was lined up for his team-leading fifth win of the season.

But Aceves blew it in the ninth, allowing a two-run home run to Sean Rodriguez that put the Rays ahead 4-3, which ended up being the final score, giving Buchholz a no-decision.

"Clay had a really good changeup, his fastball was explosive, I was very encouraged," said Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine after the loss. "He looked good. He looked good, and then gave up that second run. He was still throwing pretty good, I guess.

"I thought we were going to pull that one out and get him one he deserved. I thought he deserved a win today."

Buchholz was also disappointed that he hasn't got the results in his last two starts against the Rays, both this weekend and last week, when he allowed two runs in five innings while walking one and striking out five at the Trop.

"Nobody likes losing, but I was always told that you've got to be able to accept it sometimes," said Buchholz afterwards. "It's a tough loss there."

Buchholz was, however, encouraged with his changeup on Sunday. It's always been a strikeout pitch for him, and after searching for it for weeks, he feels he's finally made the proper progression with the pitch that allows him to confidently throw it in any count.

"I've been able to start trusting it again, and throwing it like I have in the past," said Buchholz.

"It's the pitch that always has been a strikeout pitch for me my whole career, in the minor leagues, up here," he added. "It's a pitch that I can throw behind in a count when it's good, and I can also throw it when I'm ahead in the count."

His catcher agreed.

"He went after guys, threw strikes, was able to throw strikes with his changeup, was able to get ahead with the fastball as well," said Jarrod Saltalamacchia. "But his changeup is so good that its tough to sit back and wait on it when hes throwing that fastball as hard as he does. So he did a great job, a great job all around."

Result aside, if you noticed anything else different with Buchholz on Sunday, it was the speed he was working at. Buchholz said that he made it a point to work quicker on Sunday, and that it was an area that came up before his previous start in Baltimore.

"I tried doing it in Baltimore," said Buchholz. "Just to get back on the mound, regardless of what pitch I just threw and the result of that pitch. And to keep my infielders on their toes, because I know, I've played the position before, and it's tough when you've got a guy out there taking forever to throw each pitch."

It seemed like it worked, and Buchholz put together another solid outing against the Rays. He just didn't get the end result he deserved.

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

As expected, Red Sox send Swihart to Pawtucket

Blake Swihart wasn't going to win a job. Monday merely made that official.

Swihart was optioned out as the Red Sox made further cuts, sending a player who could still be the Red Sox catcher of the future -- well, one of them anyway -- to Triple-A Pawtucket, where he's expected to work on his receiving.

Swihart hit .325 in 40 Grapefruit League at-bats.

"Had a very strong camp and showed improvements defensively. Swung the bat very well," manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida.  "For the player that he is and the person that he is, you love him as a person. He's a hell of a talented player.

"He made some subtle adjustments with his setup [defensively]. That gave him a different look to pitchers on the mound. Pitchers talked positively about the look that they got from him behind the plate. I think it softened his hands somewhat to receive the ball better. And there were a number of occasions where he was able to get a pitchers' pitch called for a strike, so the presentation of the umpire was a little bit more subtle and consistent then maybe years' past."

Sandy Leon's hot hitting in 2016 earned him an automatic crack at the lead catching spot for this year. Combined with the fact that Christian Vazquez looks great defensively, went deep on Sunday and is out of options, Swihart was the obvious odd man out.

He had options, the others didn't.

Deven Marrero was also optioned to Pawtucket. Sam Travis -- who, like Swihart, could break camp with the 2018 team -- was reassigned to minor-league camp, as was catcher Dan Butler.

The Sox have 38 players left in camp, 32 from the 40-man roster.

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Red Sox reliever Tyler Thornburg likely headed to disabled list

Righty Tyler Thornburg seems a guarantee to join David Price on the disabled list to start the season.

Thornburg, the biggest acquisition Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made for the bullpen this winter, was scratched Monday because of a spasm in his upper right trapezius — not a great sign for a pitcher who already had throwing shoulder issues this spring.

Sox manager John Farrell told reporters in Florida the spasm was “not shoulder related.”  But the trap, a large muscle along the neck and back, does extend to the shoulder blade.

Dombrowski told reporters it is most likely that Thornburg starts the year on the disabled list. More is expected to be known Tuesday, possibly after an MRI.

Robby Scott could be a replacement for Thornburg. If so, the Sox would likely have three lefties in the bullpen, along with Fernando Abad and Robbie Ross Jr.

"Possibly. Possibly," Dombrowski said of Scott. “We still have to make those decisions. But possibly.”

Dombrowski didn’t indicate a desire to go outside the organization for now.

Thornburg had barely enough time to get ready for Opening Day prior to Monday’s setback. If he indeed starts the season on the DL, Joe Kelly would be the eighth-inning reliever for the Sox — a role Kelly was headed for anyway given Thornburg’s shaky spring.

Thornburg, 28, had a 2.15 ERA last season for the Brewers. The Sox picked him up at the winter meetings in a deal that sent Travis Shaw and prospects to the Milwaukee Brewers.