Clay Buchholz has been handed the baton. It’s up to him to run with it.
Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell announced Sunday that Buchholz will be the team’s Opening Day starter. It’s the first time Buchholz has been called upon to pitch the season opener, and the right-hander is embracing the opportunity with open arms.
“Obviously it’s a big, big honor,” Buchholz told reporters before Sunday’s spring training game against the Tampa Bay Rays at JetBlue Park. “It’s another game. I have to prepare just as I would for any other start.
“I think it gets a lot of publicity and a lot of attention on it just for it being Opening Day. I’m willing to try and take it as normal as possible and try to cherish the moment because there aren’t many people that get to be a part of that or actually be an Opening Day starter, especially for an organization like Boston. Yeah, I’m happy about it.”
Jon Lester was Boston’s Opening Day starter the last four seasons. Lester, of course, was traded to the Oakland Athletics last season before signing with the Chicago Cubs in free agency over the winter. He already has been named Chicago’s Opening Day starter.
Buchholz, who is entering his ninth major league season, is the longest-tenured member of the Red Sox’s rotation. He’s also the oldest at age 30. It’s unsurprising Buchholz received the Opening Day nod, but the honor is the latest indication the Red Sox expect the two-time All-Star to lead the pitching staff in 2015.
“I think most every starting pitcher views Opening Day as an honor that’s been earned to some extent, and through time in the organization, through elite performance in fairly long stretches for Clay,” Farrell said. “This is his time.”
Buchholz is coming off a 2014 season in which he battled injuries and inconsistency, but he has shown an ability to pitch at an ace level at times. His success — or lack thereof — will go a long way toward determining whether the Red Sox’s rotation holds up in 2015. And fortunately for Boston, Buchholz feels like he’s in a good place both physically and mentally.
“I’ve had some ups and downs, both of them on the extreme side,” Buchholz said. “I’ve felt like I’ve matured a lot as a person and a baseball player.”
It’s Buchholz’s time. Now, he must make the most of it.
Thumbnail photo via Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports Images
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