BOSTON — Clay Buchholz might be sleepwalking.
Buchholz joined first baseman Mike Napoli and pitcher John Lackey in sleeping at Fenway Park on Sunday night because of the Red Sox’s short turnaround between games. Buchholz said after Monday’s loss, in which he was shelled over 2 1/3 innings, that his Fenway slumber had nothing to do with his poor performance against the Baltimore Orioles, but it’s clear the right-hander still hasn’t woken up in 2014.
“You don’t want the (11:05 a.m.) start time (Monday) to be an excuse,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Monday’s 7-6 loss. “But it was encouraging the last couple of starts he was coming off of. I felt like there was every reason to think there would be as good a stuff or, (given) the trend he was showing, have a pickup from the last couple. Just the lack of finish to his stuff was the difference (Monday).”
Buchholz didn’t make it out of the third inning Monday. He surrendered five consecutive singles in the third before recording an out, and he finally was yanked after giving up six runs on seven hits. It was another disappointing outing for Buchholz, who now is 0-2 with a 7.71 ERA through four starts.
“This game’s always built on results, so it’s hard to tell anybody that I felt good about today because I really didn’t,” Buchholz said. “But being in this game for a little bit, you’ve got to take some good away from the bad. That’s the only way that you can stay encouraged and move forward and you’re not going to dwell on things that happen or go wrong.”
Buchholz’s woes are hard to explain, especially given how well he pitched early last season. Buchholz began his 2013 campaign with a 9-0 record and 1.71 ERA through 12 starts before landing on the disabled list and missing more than three months. You could make the case Buchholz was the American League Cy Young front-runner at the time of his injury.
This season, Buchholz’s stuff hasn’t been quite as effective and his velocity has been down. The pitcher’s arm strength could be to blame, although both Buchholz and the Red Sox suggest there’s nothing wrong physically.
“I think it all starts with arm strength,” said Buchholz, who admitted his arm strength isn’t yet where he wants it to be. “Arm strength creates movement on the pitches that I throw and a couple of them are flat right now. … Everything was working pretty well for me last year at the beginning of the season.”
Buchholz, who surrendered six earned runs on a career-high 13 hits in his first start of the season against the Milwaukee Brewers, showed improvement in his next two starts, giving Boston hope he’d begin to find a rhythm. That rhythm looked more like a groggy haze Monday, though, and the Red Sox must cling to hope that he’ll snap out of it soon because of how talented and important Buchholz can be when everything is clicking.