According to Clay Buchholz, one more rehab start could do the trick.
Buchholz, who was shaky in his first rehab appearance with Single-A Lowell on Sunday, took a step forward during a rehab outing with Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday. He wasn’t perfect, but it might be time to circle Sept. 10 on your calendar, as it appears the right-hander is on track to start that night for the Red Sox if everything keeps going down the current path.
Buchholz threw 53 pitches (34 strikes) over 3 1/3 innings Friday. He allowed one earned run on seven hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out two. It was an improvement over his last start with Single-A Lowell, in which he stumbled his way to recording just two outs on 38 pitches.
“I felt really good,” Buchholz told reporters in Pawtucket. “[Friday] I was much more impressed with the velocity that I was able to sustain over the period I was out there, and getting over that hump of not really worrying about anything when I’m trying to get a fastball down and away to a righty and have something on it.”
Buchholz touched 92 mph on the McCoy Stadium radar gun Friday, according to The Providence Journal. In his previous start with Lowell, Buchholz sat around 88-90 mph while admittedly easing his way back into things. Buchholz reportedly threw all of his pitches and featured better command while generating some swing-and-misses Friday, even though there were some battles along the way.
While it’s encouraging to see Buchholz enjoy better results, the most important aspect of these rehab starts is how he feels physically, and everything has checked out OK thus far. Buchholz still sees room for improvement, though, particularly out of the stretch.
“Out of the stretch, for the most part, that’s my only uncomfortable spot right now,” Buchholz said Friday. “I don’t feel really balanced in the stretch, and that’s given the fact that most of my rehab appearances have been out of the stretch. It’s something I’m trying to think of to get a comfort level from doing that since I am having to do it so much right now. It was all about being out there and trying to figure out a way to be comfortable. In the last couple of innings, I felt good.”
Buchholz is expected to make his final rehab start Wednesday, although things could change, as his wife, Lindsay, is close to giving birth to their second child. Nevertheless, Buchholz’s next outing represents the final hurdle before a return to the majors, and he is expected to throw 75-80 pitches.
When Buchholz pitches next, it’ll be a playoff game, as the PawSox are getting ready to start their postseason slate. After that, his next trip to the mound could come during a much more important regular season game in the majors.
“I need one more [rehab start],” Buchholz said Friday. “I think if I didn’t have one more I’d be thrown against Detroit and it’s hard to get out of the game making mistakes against that club.
“You don’t need to go out there and be second-guessing your pitches and the command of your pitches when you’re facing a lineup like that. I want to make sure I’m ready, physically, to go into a game.”
Buchholz hasn’t reached the finish line just yet. But it’s in sight.