Clay Buchholz’s Return May Mean Trip to Bullpen for Felix Doubront or Ryan Dempster


September 4, 2013

Clay BuchholzThe cavalry is coming, and it’s just in time for the stretch run.

For the Red Sox, that simply means Clay Buchholz is on his way back. The right-hander is continuing his rehab assignments, and it’s believed he could return as early as next week in Tampa Bay.

There’s no understating how important Buchholz could be, especially if he returns to anything close to what he was before getting hurt.

The right-hander was 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA in his 12 starts before being injured, numbers that had him among baseball’s best pitchers in the season’s early going. Now, with the Sox set to enter their most important stretch of the season, they could be getting back one of their most important pieces.

When that happens, though, how does that affect the rest of what’s been a very, very good rotation? Don Orsillo tackles that and more in his weekly mailbag.

Do you think John Farrell has made a huge impact on the team?
–David Gao

I do. I think right from the day he arrived, he changed the feel of this club. Had he come a year earlier, I am not sure he would have had the same success. The changes they made on the roster in the offseason were all designed to mesh with a manager like John Farrell. It was clear that John badly wanted to be here as much as the organization wanted him to be. I also think his coaching staff is highly underrated, as they have been really good, and I have had several players say how different that aspect has been.

Does Daniel Nava seem to be a player constantly proving himself even though he is having a solid season?
–Herb Bailey

I think he will spend his career trying to prove himself because of where he has come from to get here. I also think it is a good thing. It seems to motivate him and drive him to the success he has achieved. He is one of my favorite players. I remember talking with him in the spring as he was just starting to take ground balls at first base, and he talked about wanting to do whatever it took to make the roster. He has more than made the roster.

What will the rotation look like when Clay Buchholz comes back?
–David Gao

This will be interesting. If the Clay Buchholz who pitched for the Sox at the beginning season returns here in September, then the Red Sox are in very good shape, especially when you look ahead to playoff series matchups. The question is who can move to the bullpen when he returns. I think Felix Doubront, who has worked out of the pen before, could be a valuable asset out there again. However, you already have a plethora of lefties, so maybe Ryan Dempster would make sense. Either way, it is a good problem to have. And who knows, maybe they go with a six-man rotation to provide an extra day for some down the stretch.

What do you think about the Red Sox’ future?
–Hayden Theriault

I think it is very bright, and we are seeing it right before our eyes right now. For years, the Red Sox seemed to only develop top pitching prospects, and now we are starting to see more position player prospects reach and succeed at this level. I think the left side of the Red Sox infield in years to come will be very strong with Will Middlebrooks at third base and Xander Bogaerts at shortstop. An entire homegrown left side for the future is pretty good, and Jackie Bradley Jr. could be manning center field. The organization also has a full stable of pitching prospects. Some we have seen, and some we will soon. The future looks all good for the club moving forward.

Do you feel a collapse (not that I want one) could possibly happen in September again?
–Jitu Arcot 

I do not think they will collapse this time, and I think the starting pitching will be the difference this time around. In 2011, the pitching was in rough shape to begin with and went south in a hurry. This staff is too good to collectively go in the tank at the same time. The starters are going deep into games with regularity, and lately, it has been difficult for  Farrell to find enough time for all the relievers to get work. To me, the pitching staff remains the biggest reason that I don’t think a collapse will happen again.

How ya doin’, Don? When you get up in the morning, what’s the first thing you do?
–Johnny Qnin

Coffee, then to my iPad to read all the papers. I’ll read about our team, the team we are playing and the team we are about to play in the next series to get up to date on where they’re at. I’ll also check out a few of the MLB sites that give you the latest stories from the night before.

What’s the best part of your job?

There are many, especially when you call Fenway Park your home office. To me, though, the best of all is having the chance to meet the people all summer who are kind enough to allow you into their homes every night. They all have their family stories that tie into their love for the Red Sox. They have always been so good to me and remind me that I have the coolest job on earth.

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