With the Red Sox just a 1/2 game out of first place after a successful start to a difficult road trip, it’s now clear that they’re going to need some help at the bottom of their starting rotation. The Red Sox starting rotation has been outstanding recently with Rick Porcello, David Price, and Eduardo Rodriguez leading the way. The rotation carried the team to a 5-2 road trip over American League contenders including the Indians, Orioles, and Tigers. With the exception of Henry Owens’ miserable start today, the starting pitching has been dominant as no starting pitcher gave up more than two runs in any game over the past week. Because of this, the Red Sox are now in a good position as their schedule beings to lighten up. 19 of their next 22 games are against teams below .500.
With all of that said, there is now some concern about the rotation as Steven Wright’s shoulder injury continues to linger and it looks like he we won’t be making his next start on Tuesday against the Rays. Eduardo Rodriguez missed his start today due to a hamstring injury. Don’t even bother guessing how long it will take for these two pitchers come back. The Red Sox have had a common practice this year of downplaying pitching injuries and pitchers have consistently been out longer than what was originally communicated. Both Wright and Rodriguez could make their next start. They also could be on the DL. With all likelihood, the Red Sox are going to need a #5 starter and the guy they’re going to rely on is a familiar face.
Clay Buchholz has been a frustrating player for Red Sox fans to watch over the years. He was regarded as a top pitching prospect in the organization. When his career started out, you could see why. The potential and the stuff were there. Then in 2010, at age 25, it all came together. Buchholz went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in an All Star season. It appeared that he was going to take off from there. However, it never happened. Buchholz struggled from a performance standpoint and also became regarded as very fragile. Watching him pitch, at times, has been a challenge as the pace of the game becomes very slow.
Heading into the 2016 season, the expectation was that Buchholz was going to enter the season as the Red Sox #2 starter after David Price. It didn’t work out that way. Through his first 10 starts, Buchholz was 2-5 with a 6.35 ERA. He gave up five runs or more in six of those ten starts. Just brutal. In late May, it was onto the bullpen where he was put into situations as a long reliever in games that weren’t close. He got to make three more starts before the All Star break and the results weren’t much better. The speculation, at that time, was the Buchholz would either be traded or put on waivers. It was back to the bullpen as Red Sox Nation awaited the move.
As the trade deadline approached, Buchholz began to play a more important role in the bullpen. He was pitching better and John Farrell started to utilize him more in pressure situations. From July 25th to August 10th, Buchholz pitched in six relief appearances where he allowed just one run in 8 1/3 innings pitched. He allowed just three hits and one walk during this stretch. This earned him a spot back in the Sox rotation after Farrell decided to pinch run Steven Wright which resulted in an All Star pitcher going on the disabled list. On Thursday, against the Tigers, Buchholz pitched six solid innings where he allowed just one run. The Red Sox lost the game, but the results were very promising from Buchholz.
So, this puts us where we’re at today. Buchholz is likely going to be starting on Tuesday night against the Rays. We all know about the potential. We also know that things can go south for this guy very quickly. What if Buchholz finds it? What if he goes on one of those runs like he did in June last year? This is a pitcher who has proven that he can dominate. And now he’s been given another chance which many thought would never come. If he pitches very well in his next two starts and gets on a roll, he may have the opportunity to solidify himself back in the rotation when Rodriguez and Wright return. When Buchholz is going well, there aren’t many pitchers who can outperform him. Just take a look at the first half of 2013.
Wouldn’t it be something if Buchholz pitches like the #2 starter down the stretch like the Red Sox were ultimately hoping for at the beginning of the season? After a roller coaster ride, he may get one last opportunity to do so.