By Maureen Mullen
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Clay Buchholz faced a little bit of adversity, in his words, Friday afternoon against the Tigers at City of Palms Park. He faced 19 batters in 4 13 innings, with eight reaching base. His only clean inning was the fourth.
But adversity is a relative term, especially in spring training. The kind he faced in this game, an 8-3 loss to Detroit, was nothing compared to that he faced several seasons ago.
Which is why Buchholz handles it with aplomb.
"I struggled with command with every pitch, Buchholz said. I could never get comfortable on the mound. Trying to make adjustments with my release point and went to both ends of the spectrum. Definitely not one of my best outings. Faced a little bit of adversity with runners on in just about every inning. You learn from it. Its still spring. Have a couple more outings and I'll go from there.
In three previous outings, spanning nine innings, Buchholz had allowed no runs on five hits and two walks, with six strikeouts. Facing some spring training adversity can be beneficial.
"It's good, he said. It's always good to get through without having someone get past second base, but there are going to be times when you struggle with innings, with guys at second with one out -- and you have to get out of that situation. It's good to go through them and sense what you need to do. I'd like to execute pitches a little bit better.
According to one scout in attendance, Buchholz looked like he was too concerned with the runners. But his changeup was good.
I thought he wasnt as sharp as hes been in a couple of his previous outings, said another scout. It looked like he was getting squeezed by the plate umpire a little bit. But he left some pitches up. He just wasnt as crisp as his other outings.
Buchholz gave up three runs, one earned, one five hits and two walks with a strikeout. Another batter, Austin Jackson in the fifth inning, reached on Kevin Youkilis first error of the spring.
I thought he fought his command a little bit today, right from the beginning, said manager Terry Francona. But he increased his workload by about 20 pitches, which is good. Hes got two more starts. I just think he didnt command as good as he normally will.
Still, Buchholz kept the game in check. He induced a groundball from Clete Thomas to get the rare 1-3-5 double play to end the first inning. The right-hander left in the fifth with the scored tied, no outs and two runners on. Hideki Okajima came in and allowed four runs in the inning -- all unearned courtesy of errors by Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez, the first of the spring for both with two runs charged to Buchholz.
I think he normally does keep the game in check, Francona said. In spring training that happens. I just think his arm strength, building his endurance, and then again as he progresses, hell be more comfortable. I just thought it was a day where it wasnt bad or anything. I just thought he fought to find his location a little bit.
Buchholz said he feels good at this point in the spring, but noticed some fatigue today.
I feel good. Body felt a little dead today, he said. I tried to get through some stuff, but it's getting to the point in spring training where the body is getting into a little bit of a dead phase. But it always seems to come back in the last week or so."
In his remaining spring outings, Buchholz will get to about 85 to 90 pitches before facing the Rangers in the third game of the season.
Maureen Mullen is on Twitter at http:twitter.commaureenamullen