Buchholz goes two scoreless innings in Sox spring debut


Buchholz goes two scoreless innings in Sox spring debut

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- His command was off a bit, but for Clay Buchholz Monday night, just being back on a mound and facing major league hitters for the first time since June 17 of last season was accomplishment enough.

"It's been a while," admitted Buchholz after tossing two scoreless innings against the Minnesota Twins. "It was a long time coming. In the first inning, the mindset was just to relax and not overthrow.

"There was a lot of work that went into it, a lot of time off, a lot of struggle. It was definitely worth all the work to be out there and not feel any (pain)."

Buchholz was eventually diagnosed with a stress fracture in his lower back last season and missed the entire second half of the season.

As the team attempted to hold off the Tampa Bay Rays for the wild card spot, Buchholz was in uniform for the final series of the year in Baltimore, but didn't see any action.

He later pitched in the Instructional League in October before dedicating himself to rehab work in the off-season.

Monday night, pitching felt natural again for Buchholz.

"I had to compensate a lot last year, to not feel anything (in the back)," he said. "I was altering everything -- my step to home plate, my leg kick and all that was going to do was lead to something else (being injured). I definitely felt 180-degress different."

Buchholz is on a stabilization program three days per week which helps maintain the strength in his lower back and he's committed to it.

"It's more to stabilize it and for that injury not to re-occur," he said. "I want to do it. There are even other guys on the team who have started doing stuff just to get strength there because even as position players and hitters, they twist and turn every game they play. It's not just for guys who've been hurt; it's for guys to prevent (any future injuries)."

Buchholz mixed in two-seam fastballs, four-seam fastballs, curveballs, changeups and cutters Monday night, allowing two walks and a hit batsman with no hits and two strikeouts in his two innings.

Said David Ortiz: "Clay's one of our best pitchers and having him healthy, that's a plus-plus. Everyone knows what Clay's capable of doing. We missed the heck out of him last year. Watching him go down it was like, 'Whoo -- what are we going to do?'

"Hopefully, he stays healthy all year."

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

WATCH: Celtics vs. Raptors

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Celtics-Raptors preview: Ibaka is 'capable of changing the game'

Celtics-Raptors preview: Ibaka is 'capable of changing the game'

TORONTO – The decision to stand pat at the trade deadline for the Boston Celtics was made in part because they felt that as their roster is constructed, they can hold their own with anybody.

We’re going to find out just how true that is tonight as they face a revamped Toronto Raptors team that added a couple of notable players via trade, chief among them being Serge Ibaka from Orlando.

“That was a really good trade for them,” said Boston’s Isaiah Thomas. “Bringing in a guy like Serge Ibaka; a defender, a four-man that can switch out on guards. A guy that can space the floor, shoot the 3.  So that was a good addition. I’m excited to see how that’s gonna work other than tomorrow.”

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was also impressed with the Ibaka trade.

“That’s an improvement; there’s no question about it,” Stevens said. “Now you can play a number of different ways. He’s a really good player; he’s very agile. He’s a very good shooter. You can play him or (Patrick) Patterson at the four (power forward) the entire game now. You can play them together as a small-ball four and five (center). It gives them a lot of options on offense and defense.”

While praise for Ibaka is nothing new, you have to remember there were reasons as to why the Magic decided to give up on him so quickly, something even more hard to understand considering the assets they gave up (Victor Olidipo and a 2016 first-round pick used to select Domantas Sabonis, among others) to acquire him.

The Magic decided that they would not be in the running to re-sign Ibaka when he hits the free agent market this summer; this coming after the Thunder traded him primarily because they did not plan on giving him the near-max contract he’ll be seeking. So rather than play out this season and lose him for nothing, the Magic decided to trade him while they still could get something (Terrence Ross) in return.

While in Orlando, Ibaka averaged a career-high 15.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots per game. For his career (all prior to this season spent in Oklahoma City), he’s averaging 11.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

But he never seemed to provide the kind of impactful, difference-making play that Orlando was seeking.

And while the Celtics speak highly of Ibaka, he hasn’t been much of a problem for the Celtics this season.

In two games against Boston, Ibaka has averaged 6.0 points and 4.0 rebounds.

Jae Crowder believes the struggles Ibaka has endured against the Celtics, are not a clear reflection of what he’s capable of doing as a player.

“For sure it makes them better,” said Crowder in describing the Raptors with Ibaka. “He’s a guy that can stretch the floor and rebound at a high rate. We know what he brings to the table.”

And those struggles we saw of him with the Magic?

“I think it was him more so than us,” Crowder said. “I give him credit because he wasn’t playing with the energy and passion he usually brings. I’ve been able to line up against him a quite a few times.  He didn’t have that passion like he did when he was in O-K-C (Oklahoma City). Maybe he’ll have it now. I know exactly what he’s capable of doing; he’s capable of changing the game with his play.”