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

Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz the oldest to hit 30 home runs in a season

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Quotes, notes and stars: Ortiz the oldest to hit 30 home runs in a season

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox' 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays:

QUOTES:

"It's one of those freak things. You don't plan on it happening, but it's one of those things. So we'll just see what the results say and move on from there.'' - Andrew Benintendi on his knee injury.

"That's kind of a routine 3-1 play. Unfortunately, it comes at a time when you've got two outs and a guy on the move. But that's a routine play.'' - John Farrell on the deciding play in which Heath Hembree couldn't hold onto the ball at first.

"I felt good. I felt strong.I felt good out there the whole game.'' - Rick Porcello, asked how he felt going back out for the eighth inning.

"I think everybody in the ballpark knew that that ball was leaving.'' - Porcello, on the hanging curveball to Evan Longoria.

 

NOTES:

* The loss snapped a five-game winning streak against the Rays for the Red Sox.

* Three of the four Red Sox walk-off losses this season have occurred because of errors.

* The homer by Evan Longoria was his first off Rick Porcello in 40 career at-bats.

* Rick Porcello has now pitched seven innings or more in six straight starts, the longest run for a Red Sox starter since John Lackey did it in 2013.

* David Ortiz is now the oldest player to ever hit 30 homers in a season

* Ortiz has now reached the 30-homer, 100-RBI level 10 times with the Red Sox, including the last four years in a row.

* The loss was the first of Heath Hembree's career, in his 67th major league appearance.

* Dustin Pedroia tied a career high with two stolen bases, the 12th time he's swiped two bases in the same game.

 

STARS:

1) Evan Longoria

The Rays were down to their final five outs when Longoria struck, hitting a game-tying homer off Rick Porcello.

2) Brad Miller

Miller's two-run double in the third enabled the Rays to stay close until Longoria's homer tied things up five innings later.

3) Rick Porcello

Porcello gave the Sox length and was brilliant in getting out of some early jams before settling in through the middle innings.

 

Shaughnessy: Everything Farrell does blows up in his face, particularly in 8th inning

Shaughnessy: Everything Farrell does blows up in his face, particularly in 8th inning

Dan Shaughnessy joins Sports Tonight to discuss Rick Porcello giving up a game-tying homerun in the 8th, and explains why John Farrell has been very unlucky with any decision he makes.