Is Clay Buchholz Ready for a Breakout Season?

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Is Clay Buchholz Ready for a Breakout Season? For someone like Clay Buchholz, it's often hard to separate the legend from the player, but aside from a (very) rough beginning to 2008, the Nederland, Texas, native has been one of Boston's most impressive young pitchers.

Buchholz began his big league Red Sox career with that no-hitter back on Sept, 1, 2007, and the year after that, he struggled mightily to live up to the lofty expectations set for him. He began 2008 with the big club, making his first start on April 5 and losing 10-2 to Toronto — which pretty much set the tone for the remainder of his season. In April, he went 1-2, and a 7-3 win over Tampa Bay on May 2 was his last of the year. He lost his remaining seven decisions before being demoted.

And that was the last we saw of him –  until almost a full year later, on July 17, 2009.

All season long, Red Sox Nation heard about how Buchholz was in a better place mentally, how he sometimes allowed his emotions to get in the way of a successful outing but now had learned to channel his energy more productively during his time in the minors. He got a chance to prove it when Tim Wakefield went down during the All-Star break, and prove it Buchholz did, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings at Texas.

Though Buchholz lost three in a row after that, he went 6-1 throughout the rest of the regular season. During that stretch, he posted a 3.34 ERA, a .222 opponents batting average and registered 42 strikeouts to 15 walks. Save for the no-hitter, it was the best anyone had seen from Buchholz yet.

He was perhaps most impressive during his only postseason start, Game 3 of the ALDS against the Angels. With the Red Sox facing elimination, Buchholz allowed two runs in five innings before the bullpen eventually blew the lead.

In 2010, after he secured the role of fifth starter, many are unsure of what to expect from Buchholz, who hasn't exactly been predictable throughout the course of his short career. In five spring training starts, he went 2-1 with an unimpressive 6.75 ERA, striking out 13 in 17 1/3 innings. In one start this season against Kansas City, he registered the win, throwing five innings and allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits.

Will this finally be the year that Buchholz breaks out as a solid starter? Or will he struggle through another season before finally getting stripped of his role? 

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