BOSTON — Sample sizes don’t get much smaller than one game for a starting pitcher, but that’s what Red Sox manager John Farrell chose to analyze Thursday in regards to Clay Buchholz.
“If we go off his most recent start, it was efficient, it was powerful,” Farrell said, adding that the performance was “very consistent” with how Buchholz pitched for much of last season. “What we’ve seen since he came off the (disabled list) is, there’s been steady improvement in each of the four starts he’s made.”
The start Farrell was referring to came in the season’s first-half finale Sunday, when Buchholz blanked the Houston Astros and struck out 12 in a complete-game effort. It was vintage Buchholz, but it was the type of outing that has been hard to come by for the right-hander this season, even before a hyperextended left knee landed him on the DL.
Buchholz is saddled with a 4-5 record and 5.42 earned run average on the season, missing almost all of June after injuring his landing foot while absorbing a three-inning, six-run beating against the Atlanta Braves on May 26. He is 2-1 since his return June 25 and showed renewed command in his changeup Sunday, when he didn’t issue a walk.
The changeup is a bellweather for Buchholz.
“Historically, for me, that’s been the pitch that I’ve thrown whenever I’ve needed a big out or a miss-hit or something,” Buchholz said. “That’s the pitch that I’ve shown the most confidence in throwing and it’s slowly but surely coming back.”
Thanks to the All-Star break, Buchholz will officially make back-to-back starts, as he is slated to take the mound when the Red Sox resume their season Friday against the Kansas City Royals. He did not come to the park in the three days before Thursday’s optional workout, but he was “able to pick up a ball and mess around with it a little bit” and felt rested, even if he is technically making his regular turn in the rotation.
Sitting 9 1/2 games out in the American League East race certainly is not where the Red Sox wanted to begin the second half of their World Series defense. But Buchholz, who carried the team through the early part of 2013, says he feels good — and that makes the Red Sox feel pretty good, too.