When the Red Sox announced in April a four-year extension with Clay Buchholz worth over $30 million, it came on the heels of his second straight rough start. As he sat aside general manager Theo Epstein, grinning ear to ear, Buchholz was 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA.
The organization, and the right-hander it had groomed, knew a rocky beginning to a season would not get in the way of what could be a fruitful marriage.
The two sides will have to try to take the same approach as they navigate through the disheartening rumor that Buchholz is lost for the remainder of the season, knowing there are many more years to make this work.
Buchholz is a very good pitcher, a rock in the clubhouse and one of those guys who simply gets it. If these rumors are true, he will be sitting on a bench in Fort Myers next February telling reporters he feels great and is fully prepared to be the pitcher who has gone 23-10 with a 2.70 ERA since becoming a full-time member of the rotation prior to 2010.
The marriage will remain strong going forward. However, right now the two sides are going to figure out how to live apart, and that can be difficult.
The rumored Buchholz injury, if true, is one of a handful of scenarios that can sink this team. Here are the Red Sox, coming off the best July in franchise history, sporting an otherworldly offense, a shutdown bullpen, veterans with winning pedigree, and what would be two remaining front-line starters.
The issue lies with that last item. Not everyone has two front-line starters. But Boston had three, an aspect of their roster that could’ve done wonders in the postseason. When Buchholz lined up against Detroit’s Max Scherzer or Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin or New York’s Freddy Garcia or Texas’ Matt Harrison, it’s advantage Boston. Some of those guys are having fantastic seasons, but the Sox would take their guy any day.
Now they nay have to hope that either John Lackey can be the guy who has a 3.12 ERA in 14 postseason appearances, or that Erik Bedard can not only stay healthy but look anything like he did in May and June of this year. Bedard has never pitched in the postseason and comes with the reputation of wanting to shy away from the spotlight. Whether that’s fair or not, it’s enough to make anyone on the fence pine for Buchholz. Same goes for Lackey’s up-and-down campaign.
Pine all you want. It’s a stretch run without one of your top starters, and likely an October hoping and praying that Josh Beckett and Jon Lester not only stay healthy, but continue to dominate.
Because of the offense and because of the bullpen and because of the fact that Beckett and Lester are that good, it may not even matter. This team has enough without Buchholz to do great things. However, his absence has opened up just a dose of vulnerability.
And with it, a fruitful marriage is on hold.