What a difference a year makes for Buchholz

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What a difference a year makes for Buchholz

By Sean McAdam
CSNNE.com

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It was only a year ago, and yet, it seems like much longer.

When Clay Buchholz reported to spring training last February, very little was guaranteed for him. Though the Red Sox had resisted trading him and viewed him a potential front-of-the-rotation starter, he had yet to establish himself as a dependable major-league starter, with just a dozen wins spread over parts of the three previous seasons.

That was before, of course, Buchholz enjoyed his breakout 2010 season when he won 17 games and fashioned a tidy 2.33 ERA, earning him a spot on the All-Star team and a more secure spot in the rotation.

This spring, the uncertainty that surrounded him a year ago has dissolved, and with it, the need to prove himself. Buchholz is no longer a prospect; he's established. Whereas last year he had to make a statement to make the team, Buchholz isn't under the same sort of scrutiny.

"It definitely feels different, but it feels good," said Buchholz, "having a full season under my belt, having that feeling that I belong in this position and feeling that the team has a little bit of confidence in me going into the season."

Buchholz recalled fretting over a poor start against the Minnesota Twins last March and wondering how it might impact his chance to make the club. That won't be an issue this year.

Instead, he'll use his time here as preparation, not a job audition.

"That's one of the things I talked to John Lackey about last year," said Buchholz. "His big thing was coming into spring training and viewing it as a process to get ready for the season. That's how I think spring training should be labeled.

"I definitely want to come into spring training ready to throw, but not particularly be in mid-season form at the beginning so that you burn out during the season. That's how I'm going to take it this year."

In recalling 2010, Buchholz cited a number of factors responsible for his growth as a pitcher -- and not all of them were physical. He learned a lot about the mental toughness needed to succeed in the American League East.

As a younger pitcher, Buchholz was sometimes prone to being rattled. Baserunners would distract him and his focus would wander at times.

But last year, Buchholz kept his poise better and didn't allow problems to snowball.

"I think I matured a little bit," he said, "as far having the ability in some big situations, making one pitch and getting out of a jam . . . If I had a bad outing, I forgot about it, had a short memory. And even if it was a good outing, forget about that, too, and go out and try to do the same thing."

Few pitchers are ever satisfied, and Buchholz includes himself in that group. There are still areas in which he would like to see improvement, including the ability to "make some adjustments a little quicker. I think I did a better job as far as mechanically doing something wrong and coming back the next batter and fixing it. I'd like to make a pitch-by-pitch thing. If I make a mistake, adjust on the next pitch instead of waiting for the next batter."

Like the rest of the Red Sox staff, Buchholz will have to go forward without the counsel of pitching coach John Farrell who left last November to manage the Toronto Blue Jays. Farrell's absence will be felt.

"John Farrell was awesome," said Buchholz. "He was probably one of the big reasons why I had success last year. I finally got accustomed to talk to him and not be afraid of him. He's just a stern person, always about business.

"Talking to Curt Young, new pitcing coach, he's a different personality. He's going to fit in well with this clubhouse."

Buchholz isn't making personal predictions for 2011. He's content to see where his talent takes him.

"As far as projecting numbers," said Buchholz, I'm not expecting anything. I'm just going to go out and make pitches, go pitch-by-pitch and go from there."

Sean McAdam can be reached at smcadam@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sean on Twitter at http:twitter.comsean_mcadam

Sox hope to bring David Ortiz back to Boston for new role

Sox hope to bring David Ortiz back to Boston for new role

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- David Oritz’s time in Boston as a player is over. He continues to say there’s no Brett Favre-type comeback, no matter how many people ask him.

However, that doesn’t mean his time with the Red Sox is over.

Sam Kennedy, Tom Werner and Dave Dombrowski are heading down to the Dominican Republic to tour the team’s academy on the island to see what changes, if any, need to be made.

Ortiz will join them on those tours.

“He’s just a good guy to go to the Dominican with,” Kennedy said. “We thought it’d be great to catch up. Haven’t seen him since before the holidays.”

But the front office members intend to exchange more than just pleasantries and stories from the holiday season. One goal on the trip is to bring Ortiz back to the organization as an employee.

“Yeah that’s something on the agenda,” Kennedy said. “We’re gonna talk about what he may or may not want to do. He did say after the season let’s just talk in January. He was so overwhelmed and tired so it’s a good time to start those conversations.

“I know he has a lot of plans, broadcasting, a lot of businesses he’s involved with and we’ll see what he’s up to. But we hope to cement something so he’s a part of the organization.”

What role that is yet to be determined. Assuming he doesn’t pursue a broadcasting career.

“I truly don’t know what’s on his mind,” Kennedy said. “He’ll obviously be good at whatever he decides to do, but I would hope that we could create a role where he has influence in the baseball operations side, he has influence in marketing, as an ambassador. A lot of our alums we’ve found really enjoy working with young players. Pedro [Martinez] is a perfect example of that.

“So we’ll see what he’s interested in doing, but I have heard him talk about broadcasting in the past and I think he’d be great at it if he decides to do it.”

Swihart, Wright fully recovered for Red Sox' spring training

Swihart, Wright fully recovered for Red Sox' spring training

MASHANTUCKET, Conn. -- Dave Dombrowski told reporters at the Red Sox Winter Weekend at Foxwoods both Steven Wright and Blake Swihart are ready to go for spring training.

Wright suffered a shoulder injury from sliding back into second as a pinch runner against the Dodgers in August, ending his All-Star season far too soon. The knuckleballer went 13-6 with a 3.33 ERA in 24 starts last season.

“His shoulder has been feeling good,” Dombrowski said of Wright, who was not at the event due to a prior engagement. “He’s out there throwing, so he feels good.”

Swihart saw his season end even sooner than Wright, after spraining his left ankle June 4 tracking down a foul ball in left field near the wall at Fenway Park. He played in only 19 games last season. 

“[Swihart] said he feels great,” Dombrowski said. “He’s going right from here down to Florida and he said he’s ready to go.”

Swihart will move back to the catcher position for spring training, with his goal of winning the job over Sandy Leon and Christian Vazquez. The ankle might’ve been a cause for concern had the Red Sox handled the situation differently, but by all accounts he’s OK to catch again.

“They tell me [there’s no reason for concern],” Dombrowski said. “I guess I’m really not knowledgeable to say that, but the doctors and trainers have told me no.

"That’s why they went and had the surgery because they felt the way the tendon kept slipping that [there was a] possibility it would bother him more. But after the surgery now, they feel there will not be any problems in that regard.”