Clay Buchholz was just supposed to bridge the gap. But given the way he’s pitched over the last two weeks, the Boston Red Sox might have some decisions to make.
Buchholz, who is filling in for the injured Steven Wright in Boston’s rotation, made his third consecutive start Tuesday. And for the third consecutive time, the right-hander put his team in a position to win, this time limiting the Tampa Bay Rays to one run over 6 1/3 innings while striking out nine in the Red Sox’s 2-1 win at Tropicana Field.
To say Buchholz has had a disappointing 2016 season would be an understatement: He posted a 6.35 ERA record through his first 10 starts this year before getting relegated to the bullpen.
But the 32-year-old’s return to the rotation has been quite a different story. Buchholz is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his last three starts and has allowed just two earned runs over 12 1/3 innings in his last two outings.
“He’s playing a huge role for us right now,” manager John Farrell said after the game, as aired on NESN’s “Extra Innings LIVE.” “Given some of the situations where guys have been nicked up (with) temporary injury-type situations, he’s stepped in. … He’s given us a chance to win.”
Despite his recent success, though, Buchholz’s future remains murky. Wright is scheduled to return to the rotation Friday against the Kansas City Royals, and Eduardo Rodriguez isn’t expected to miss much more time after getting scratched from his last start with hamstring tightness.
With Drew Pomeranz now in the fold, Buchholz has been the odd man out when all five starters are healthy. And Farrell was more or less noncommittal when asked if Buchholz’s latest solid appearance could earn him a permanent start in the rotation.
“As far as Clay goes, this will be, I’m sure, more of a conversation with him,” Farrell said. “But setting that aside, he’s throwing the ball exceptionally well right now.”
Buchholz certainly is capable of stringing together quality outings — remember 2013, when he went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA before going down with an injury? — but he also has been maddeningly inconsistent for much of the last three seasons. That said, spots in Boston’s rotation this season have been earned on merit, and Buchholz deserves at least a few more starts to see if he can keep the ball rolling.
At the very least, the Buchholz dilemma is a good problem to have for Farrell and Co.
“I don’t know that we ever truly lost faith in the talent of Clay,” Farrell said. “He was in a rut for quite some time, but pitching out of the stretch has obviously proved very effective for him, and the jolts that he’s giving us right now from the spot starts he’s made, he’s kept us rolling.”
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